Two and a half years ago, Rosalie Solis-Augusto and her husband Dennis had moved into an over 55 senior apartment complex in Santa Rosa. Life was going fairly well but then a call was received that their grandson, Preston Jackson, would end up in a foster home unless grandpa and grandma stepped forward. The parents were having a difficult time and Preston would either have to be put in foster care or live in a broken home. Being a child with autism, Rosalie didn’t think twice but living in a senior complex, how would they handle a child not quite six- years-old.
Preston didn’t have a bed to sleep in nor clean clothes to wear. Rosalie was deathly scared. How was she going to take in this sweet but autistic child? They did not have any special training. How would this grandson fare with them?
Another daughter, Heather, found them a two-bedroom apartment on Southwest Boulevard in Rohnert Park. Augusto said lucky for us that an organization called Lilliputian in Santa Rosa bought a bed and gave her gift cards to buy and replace his dirty torn clothes.
Preston had attended Brookhill Elementary in Santa Rosa but only was in Kindergarten for two months. Preston did complete the first grade and has now just completed the second grade at Monte Vista in Rohnert Park. The sweet child had speech problems and so it was very hard to try and decipher what little he could or would speak. Monte Vista has now supplied Preston with the tools to learn proper mechanics in pronunciations and be able to sound out the proper letters. He has an aide with him at all times and wears special headphones.
Having just turned eight-years-old, a difficult age anyway for a second grader, Preston has a hard time making friends. Lacking social skills, Preston at times will have a melt-down but very short lived. One problem with a special needs child, parents and grandparents have a tendency to shelter or isolate the child.
Preston, however, now has a special gift. He enjoys astronomy and sciences and is able to navigate the NASA website with ease. Being able to perform these little tasks, his personality is shining through tremendously. He is currently reading an adult anatomy book, he won’t read the child’s version, only the adult one. He says he will try to do his very best and focus on one thing at a time. This young man has even cut out pieces of paper of the earth and explained how continents were made by separating the land. Rosalie says that it took Preston probably three quarters of the school year to progress but has never given up. This child is very intelligent and lovable; and something that Preston couldn’t do was give hugs, but is eager for them now.
Several times Jackson has been invited to a classmate’s birthday party at Rebounderz and it went quite well. Therefore, when it was time for Preston’s party, he was all excited. He sent out invitations just like his other classmates had done and grandma had reserved the party room at Rebounderz, but alas only two RSVPs arrived at the house. With Rosalie’s situation, booking a party at Rebunderz and no guests showing up was devastating. Last year a party that she had booked at Howarth Park in Santa Rosa was a bust as no one showed up and she didn’t want that to happen again.
Augusto turned to social media and asked advice from her many friends what she should do. She received over 100 pieces of advice saying go on with the party as her friends will show up and bring children be they grandkids or the neighbor’s kids. Through that social media, it was brought to the attention of the Rohnert Park Police Department.
A kind officer named David Watson emailed the whole department and again the department came to the call of the community.
About 15 uniformed and plain clothes officers showed up at Rebounderz with a fire truck and many brought their own children so Preston could have a real birthday party. With 18 children attending the party Preston had a ball. The best part of his day was when he approached the lobby, there stood 15 officers and families with a brand new bike. This was his wish for a gift…a brand new bike like others had.
Officer Watson said, “We did this because it was the right thing to do and besides it tugged at my heart strings.”
Rosalie wanted to give a few words of advice. If you see a child play by himself especially in the school yard, just go over and say hi. Be friendly but if the child should throw a tantrum it is not because they are spoiled but because an autistic child has heightened senses or ADHA and normal hearing to them may be extremely loud and sensitive to the ears. When taking in foster children you really have to seek out support groups with special training as they offer resources and help take care of legal aid and guardianship problems.
Augusto is checking other venues as Preston has a half-brother and half-sister and she would like to have Preston meet his siblings. Yes, even autistic children will have a grand time at a birthday party if the community steps in and helps.