Christina Treece and her husband, John, have a blended family with six children, one grandchild and another grandchild on the way. They have four children living at home: Logan (17), Cassia (16), Gatlin (9) and Draiman (8).
When Gatlin was three years old, doctors diagnosed him with autism. Draiman received the same diagnosis at 18 months. Christina was at first overwhelmed, but she became determined to give her boys access to every opportunity for their well-being and future.
One autumn when the boys were small, she took them to a local fall festival. The outing turned out to be disastrous. The boys experienced sensory overload and festival volunteers didn’t understand, and weren’t prepared to deal with, autistic behaviors. The other festival attendees stared and whispered. Christina left the festival feeling upset and humiliated.
Turning a negative experience around
As she considered the experience, she wondered: “What would an event designed for children with developmental differences look like?” and “What would it take to make it happen?”
Christina put her ideas to action by founding ADDAPTCO (formerly Friends of BVS), a 501(c)(3) non-profit. ADDAPTCO plans and sponsors several community events every year, including a Fall Fest, a Christmas celebration and several Dance & Sundae parties. “The events are inclusive because all children need to learn to get along and understand each other,” she explains.
Volunteers staffing the events are prepared to deal with children with a variety of behaviors and the activities are designed to be appropriate for children with unique sensory needs.
“My goal is to provide a place where families can feel comfortable and accepted,” said Christina. “My family has met so many wonderful parents and children through these events and the events continue to grow in popularity.”
Expanding their reach
ADDAPTCO was closely aligned with the Blanchard Valley Center but has recently expanded its involvement to other local schools. The organization established Little Free Libraries at Jacobs Primary, Chamberlin Hill, Bigelow Hill and Blanchard Valley School. In the future, Christina would like to fund field trips for special needs children attending local schools.
Looking back at her journey over the past decade, Christina has experienced tremendous personal growth. “(Motherhood) has made me a better person,” she said. “It’s changed my perspective. I’ve learned to understand people and to put myself in other people’s shoes.”
Some days, Christina says her thoughts turn to her mom, a special education teacher who passed away before Gatlin and Daiman were born. “I think she’s with me in spirit,” says Christina. “I think she pushes me to do what I do.”
Q&A with Christina Treece
What are your favorite free time activities?
I love to bake—cookies, pies, cakes—all kinds of stuff. I also like to read, paint, crochet and sew.
How do you achieve balance?
Juggling my time and achieving balance is really hard. My family is the most important thing in my life, so I make my family my priority. I try to limit my work with ADDAPTCO to one hour a day. I have a rule that there is no work on Sunday. I am also big on setting timers. I hate unloading the dishwasher, but I set a timer one day and discovered that the task only takes about 5 minutes, so I shouldn’t complain!
What advice would you share with other families?
Spend a lot of time with your extended family. We try to include the grandparents in everything we do because we believe it is so important for them to be involved in our children’s lives.