The Hansen Family

Told by Grant and Julie Hansen

Olivia is 11 years old! She loves to be with people and socialize. She participates in her cheer team, plays all kinds of sports, and is a member of our local Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts troops. She also loves going out to eat and cooking food at home. She would say her least favorite thing is feeling bored, so we try to fill her days with activities she enjoys!

Olivia also loves being around people. Before she could even talk, she would manage to put herself in the middle of other kids while playing. As social as she is now, you wouldn’t be able to guess that she didn’t begin talking until after her 5th birthday!

We heard about Jill’s House from a Facebook group for parents who have children with autism. A parent mentioned that she had sent her son to Jill’s House, and he had a great time there. We had looked into other overnight opportunities for Olivia, but they either were week-long camps that we knew wouldn’t be a good fit for her or just didn’t feel right to us. However, Jill’s House and the local Garden State weekend camp were exactly what we were looking for!

Eventually, we were able to visit the camp and knew right away that it would be the perfect experience for Olivia. We wanted her to feel confident that she could be without us and still be okay. The Garden State Local Program Manager made us feel so comfortable! We were even told that if Olivia needed to talk to us at any time during her first stay, the staff would allow her to call home. But her first stay at Garden State camp was a perfect experience for her, and we didn’t hear from her at all!

Finding support is challenging. Olivia’s weekend away at camp was the first time we were alone in 11 years. We were so excited to have this time together that we probably stacked our weekend with too many fun things, but it was very special for us. The best part of our weekend by far was knowing that Olivia was safe and having a great time.

When we picked Olivia up at the end of the weekend, she got in the car and kept asking us when she could go back. Although she doesn’t share a lot of details about her time at camp, we learned that her favorite activity was the zip line, which she was able to ride twice. She also enjoyed playing in the pool and loved having a sleepover with her friend in the cabin.

We are truly grateful for Jill’s House. We think it’s amazing that Olivia has had this opportunity and that Jill’s House allows her to thrive in a safe environment among other kids. Now that her needs for social interaction with her friends are being met, it is helping her grow socially and our comfort level has grown too, because we know that Olivia will be ok.

We love Jill’s House so much!