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Local pen pal program helping youth feel connected during COVID-19

April 8, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

A 14-year-old autistic boy in Dufferin County is making friends around the world and helping kids make connections through his Lucas’ Letters pen pal program.

Lucas Godin of Grand Valley started the program in 2017 with the help of him Mom, after deciding to connect with another autistic boy, across Canada, with a simple letter. Both boys found it difficult to make friends at school and the letter became a vehicle for connection between them, making them feel a part of a bigger community.

Out of that connection, Lucas’ Letters was born and Lucas now writes to over 200 different families around the world, sometimes as often as once a week.

“Lucas’s goal is that all kids with special needs and that are being picked on don’t feel alone anymore,” said Jean Godin, Lucas’ mother.

She told the Citizen, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lucas’ Letters has provided an opportunity for kids with special needs to feel more connected and make friends.

“I keep being asked by different people how kids with special needs are coping [during the pandemic] and I found that this is a really good outlet for him right now, to be in contact with people,” Mrs. Godin explained. “It’s something different for kids to do, especially right now when they’re feeling so isolated.”

In addition to Lucas’ 200 pen pals, 500 other children have been matched up through Lucas’ Letters and handwrite letters to one another on a regular basis.

Mrs. Godin said the act of pen paling has helped Lucas tremendously in developing his reading and writing skills. He was non-verbal until he was seven and had no interest in printing or handwriting until he wrote his first letter.

“It was like that connection of realizing, if I write you a letter, you have to be able to read it to write me back and once he got that, it just snowballed and now he loves it,” Mrs. Godin enthused. “Who knew that’s how it would click?”

She added that other families have had a similar experience with Lucas’ Letters.

“We’ve actually seen some kids that at one point didn’t print or write that have special needs, now able to actually print,” Mrs. Godin noted. “It’s really neat.”

When asked about what his favourite part of the program is, Lucas said he most enjoys reading the kind words written to him and learning about new places.

“He now Google’s where people pen pal him from,” said Mrs. Godin. “It’s almost like it’s became a geography project.”

If anyone’s interested in signing up for the program, they can visit: https://lucasletters.com/ and select the “Join The Club” tab at the top right side of the page.



         

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