FINDING COMFORT IN THE Y’S
Before YMCA member Deb Lagasse brought her son Tyler to the YMCA, it was important to her to be sure this space was “emotionally and psychologically safe” for him. “I joined the Y and scoped it out,” she said. Tyler is a friendly, intelligent young man with autism and can be vulnerable,” Deb said.
“Safety has a lot of meaning in my world for Tyler as an adult working within a community. Do I need to be with him? Should I be with him? Where is it safe for Tyler to interact with the world? Will the world make room for him? I want to provide a safety net, yet give him freedom” she said.
She said once she met many Y members, she felt very comfortable introducing Tyler to all the Y offers. Avid pickleball players, Deb, Tyler and Ron (Deb’s husband and Tyler’s Dad) have enjoyed their time meeting people and getting involved with the very active and welcoming pickleball community at the Westwood Park YMCA. “They are nice, nice people. The pickleball players are a kind group of people. It’s not like that at every place. We rally around each other here,” she said.
Tyler is a highly accomplished 36-year-old. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Special Olympics and is a regular guest speaker at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the “Sports and Politics” class. He graduated from University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2019 with a degree in Earth, Environment, and Atmospheric Science and from Middlesex Community College in 2014 with an Associate’s Degree in Life Sciences. He is the co-author with Deb of his autobiography, What Do You Say? Autism with Character. From the book’s Amazon post:
Tyler Lagasse began reading and writing at the age of two. His parents were amazed at how smart he was. When he wouldn’t talk to them, they were concerned. How could someone so smart not interact with their parents? By the age of four, they had their answer. He was diagnosed with a form of autism. Determined not to give up when faced with the challenge of raising a son with autism, Deb Lagasse looked to find a place to fix her son. What she discovered through this journey was that her son was not broken. He just experienced the world differently compared to most people. Full of insights, struggles, and celebrations, What Do You Say? Autism with Character will enlighten, educate, and, most of all, inspire you to accept the strengths that everyone has and believe in the power to really see those strengths as talents and skills. For the first time, read Tyler’s journal reflections of what he thinks, believes, and does as his mother reflects on those same experiences from a sometimes completely different point of view.
(Learn more or and to purchase the book: https://www.amazon.com/What-Do-You-Say-Character/dp/1503556840)
Tyler’s goal is to align his interests and education and find a job in the field of renewable resources and sustainability. Tyler shared that he “wants to make a difference in the fight against climate change.” He has researched a lot of companies and now set his sights set on a job with Trashology in Concord, Mass., a waste-to-electricity company focusing on commercial businesses.
Tyler takes the game of golf very seriously and has a gold medal to back that up. After four tightly contested days of play, Tyler secured gold on the final hole at the Special Olympics National Games in July of this year. Lagasse was sponsored by the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and he is now a Flutie Fellow. The win was the Tyngsborough native’s first top finish at the event after he took home silver in 2010, 2014 and 2018.
After achieving this milestone, he said, “It feels like I’m on top of the world. I had three attempts that failed and finally the fourth one was successful.” This event was at the challenging Crooked Cat course at the Orange County National Golf Center in Orlando, Florida.
In addition to being an avid golfer Tyler likes to draw, journal, exercise, ski, hike, watch old NFL highlights on YouTube, and be around positive people. The Lagasse family loves sports. “There is always a sporting event going on with our family, either playing or watching on TV,” Deb shared.
The Lagasse family happily shares their Y story: “The mission of the Y is not in words only. There is a level of decorum that is inclusive for everyone. I see the commitment to diversity,” Deb shared.
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