Bradon, 29, is an avid fan of anime, video games, and superhero movies, and even imagines and acts out his own stories at home. He is engaging, thoughtful, expressive and a joy to be around. These qualities helped him land jobs as a greeter at places like the United Center and Marshalls, where he works now.
But Bradon wasn’t always so confident, his mother Beverly says. “We were really looking for an opportunity for Bradon to build his socialization skills with other young adults with autism, and gain some confidence,” says Beverly.
ABOVE: Bradon and Beverly.
Discouraged by the groups she found, which tended to be in the suburbs and lacked diversity, Beverly finally connected with Urban Autism Solutions and Bradon started participating in some of the social programs, including the Urban Hike with Mike, which brings young adults with autism and related challenges to different Chicago neighborhoods each week via public transportation for cheap eats.
But it was the Monthly Meet-Ups, which occur at Pompeii Restaurant on Taylor Street, that was a real game-changer for Bradon. These gatherings bring together young adults with autism for pizza, board games, conversation and friendship. There, Bradon was able to connect with others who shared his passion for anime.
“The event Bradon looks forward to the most are the Urban Autism Solutions Meet-Ups,” says Beverly. “When he is struggling, the other people at the Meet-Up understand and that gives him hope.”
“I learned that being with people like me has helped me learn about myself,” says Bradon.
Bradon isn't the only one who has told us how transformative the Monthly Meet-Ups have been for him. "The Meet-Ups might be the only opportunity to gather with others who may share a similar perspective, and that's really important," says Julie Tracy, co-founder of Urban Autism Solutions. "And the pizza is really good too!"