FORTEAU, NL. – Delivering newspapers is helping Forteau carrier Thomas Flynn develop his skills in more ways than one.
According to his mom, Thomas, who is autistic, has been demonstrating improved sociability since he started his Northern Pen paper route in June 2016.
“All the other kids were getting jobs for the summer and he didn’t really have anything,” says his mom, Judy.
His parents decided that he could try his hand as a newspaper carrier.
Thomas started with 20 newspapers initially, but has since expanded to 38. Judy says they decided to set 40 papers as a maximum so it wouldn’t be too much for Thomas to handle.
“Within two or three weeks, he remembered every place, every name,” says Judy. “His memory is phenomenal.”
She explains when Thomas goes to each door, the customer will engage him in conversation. And now, more often Thomas is starting to respond.
Judy is even finding he will sometimes initiate conversation with other people.
“I noticed that the first time he really initiated conversation was on his paper route,” she says. “He asked a question. Thomas always talks to meet his own needs. But, rather than wanting something, he was actually telling customers about their paper and asking them questions.”
Judy attributes this improvement in Thomas’ sociability to the interactions he’s been able to have through newspaper carrying.
She explains it allows him to get out in the community more and learn about the people around him.
“Things that Thomas didn’t notice two years back, he’s starting to notice a lot more,” she says. “He’s started paying attention more to other people rather than to objects.
“Going door-to-door, he became interested in these people. And he wanted to know things about them.”
Furthermore, adding to the learning experience, Thomas now counts up his own money at the end of the week and deposits it at the bank.
The Flynn family was away for the summer but Thomas is picking up his paper route once again this week.
And, according to his mother, he’s excited to give it another go.
Thomas will relinquish the papers next year after he graduates from high school. The family plans to move to St. John’s with him.