Three Moments

There are three unforgettable moments for the parent of a child with autism - Willowglen Academy helped me and Arthur through two of them.  That's an amazing achievement for all of us and that's why I am recommending this school.

 

The first moment comes at age three - when the doctor points out your perfect child doesn't play like "normal" children - or speak in sentences or tell stories or analyze information like "normal" children or initiate action on his own - when he points out that your child rocks back and forth and bangs his head - actions "normal" children don't.

 

But you have hope and you do your best, the child improves ... And you start to think - he'll outgrow autism. How can "delayed development" be permanent?
 

The second moment comes at eighteen – when the child is six feet tall, still rocking back and forth, still has out bursts and is lacking self-control or concentration, is still reading a at first grade level, and is speaking in longer sentences but still not really telling stories of any length or significance. Additionally, an impulsive hug or slap has now become a danger signal and is a barrier to being in the "normal" community. That is the moment I lost hope. That is the moment it hit me as a parent - how in the world am I going to help my young adult child learn to live with autism – not be cured – not outgrow – but live with a disability as real as a wheelchair and perhaps more complicated to define.

 

And that's when Arthur and I met the people at Willowglen Academy - New Jersey. The caring team of teachers and social workers sat Arthur and me down in the conference room and said over and over again "we can help you", "we can help him".  And they did. When Arthur entered his first classroom at Willowglen, Miss Susan had him sit in a corner – to reduce distractions. He had a one-on-one aide, occupational therapy and speech therapy. They addressed his issues of distractibility and concentration and Arthur settled down and improved.

 

The man that graduated Willowglen at age 21 was so self-aware, he could make choices which would influence the rest of his life. At Willowglen Arthur found a love of animals – by taking care of the class pet Susie (a hamster). He found a love of growing things by working in the school garden. He stopped banging his head. He stopped jumping and began to walk and stand with improved self-awareness.

 

His reading improved as well as his math and money skills.

 

When that third moment came I had the team at Willowglen by my side guiding me through the Transition. With their leadership our family has set up guardianship and a special needs trust. We began working with DDD and Social Security to get Arthur the testing and funding required to help him function as a disabled adult in the community. And all this was due to Miss Jamie, Miss Ellen, and so many others.

 

Because of the hope that the Willowglen Academy - New Jersey team restored in me, we have set up Life With Joy Inc., a corporation dedicated to providing Arthur and other adults like him with low income housing, and a career in agriculture and farming.

 

Arthur walked into Willowglen without direction.

 

He graduated with a business card – it says “Farmer.”

 

I give Willowglen credit for giving us both the courage to create that card.

 

Does your child's school do that?

 

With gratitude,

Susan