Unbelievable But True!

by Nina S.
November 2012

“The story of the successful and wonderful experience of my son, Daniel(“Danny”), at ABC School is nearly unbelievable but it is true. Danny was diagnosed as autistic at age 2.5 in 1998 and our family put intense early intervention efforts for Danny at the center of our family life. Danny’s dad, my husband Robert, threw himself into the task and worked closely with a team of therapists and our local school district to provide the best possible support for Danny who is verbal and seemed so full of promise.

However, in March 2001, Danny’s older brother, Anthony (then age 8), fell ill suddenly with what at first appeared to be a seizure disorder but was later that year diagnosed as a brain tumor (prognosis dismal). From then on saving Anthony became the all consuming focus of our family and, as a result of my husband’s heroic efforts, Anthony survived for over 7 years until his death in May 2008. Needless to say, Anthony’s death devastated our family, but for Danny, already challenged by autism and the onset of puberty, the grief was truly shattering. Consequently, his transition to middle school in the fall of 2008 was very difficult, marked by aggressive episodes sending him home for much of that school year.

In the fall of 2009, with great effort and high hopes, my husband arranged to have Danny attend an NPS [Nonpublic School] in Marin County. Regrettably, Danny’s aggressive behavior escalated and again he was repeatedly sent home until he was finally expelled in March 2010. Though deeply disappointed in the failure of that placement, Danny’s dad took on the task of home schooling Danny. After a short period of calm, Danny again became aggressive and oppositional: he refused to leave the house and strenuously resisted engaging in any schoolwork or activities of any kind. On an ever increasing regimen of antidepressants, anti-psychotics and anti anxiety medication, Danny’s life was unhappy and very isolated.

In March 2011, my husband was stricken with a massive, crippling depression which in turn terrified Danny and heightened his anxiety and aggression. As my husband received treatment and started to improve, we began discussing with Michael Pereira, the Clinical Director of ABC, the possibility of Danny attending ABC School in the fall. Since Danny and my husband were house bound, Mike came to our house to meet and observe us. The thoroughness and thoughtfulness of Mike’s and ABC’s evaluation process were immediately impressive, displaying a desire to understand fully Danny and the family dynamic in a way we had never seen in our many years of dealing with special education programs. We felt cautiously hopeful but continued to focus on my husband’s battle with depression, a fight he tragically lost on October 25, 2011 when he took his own life.

The loss of his wonderful father, the center of his universe, demolished my already fragile son. Danny, wild with grief, became uncontrollably violent and within two weeks I had no choice but to call the police and initiate the “5150” involuntary commitment process. Danny spent two weeks at an adolescent psychiatric unit and then transferred to a Regional Center crisis stabilization facility.

Throughout this period of upheaval, Mike maintained incredibly supportive contact with me and Danny’s psychiatrist and continued to work toward the seemingly impossible goal of admitting Danny to the ABC School program. By early December, an IEP meeting was convened with Mike and Leslie Werosh, the Director of Special Education, to plan for Danny’s entry to school in early January 2012. Due to Mike and Leslie’s extraordinary efforts to prepare staff for Danny’s arrival- they actually arranged for a grief counselor to talk to staff, and collaborated and consulted extensively with Danny’s doctors, therapists, and me – Danny started at ABC on Jan 3 of this year [2012]!

He began attending school while still residing at the stabilization facility where he was having many problems with depression (he had lost more than fifty pounds!) and aggression. Although there were many bumps at the outset, ABC quickly became his refuge and provided Danny much needed structure and comfort. He has been on an amazing trajectory of progress ever since and for the first time in his difficult life he loves going to school, loves his teachers, staff, and friends (he actually has friends for the first time!!!), loves learning and doing new things. He has a job in the workability program! He gladly goes on field trips (this boy who would not leave the house)! The word miraculous comes to mind but Danny’s amazing transformation is not due to a miracle. It is absolutely the result of the hard work, dedication and commitment of Mike, Leslie and the outstanding teachers and staff at ABC to saving special needs children, like Danny, who are in desperate straits. Danny and I have found so much compassion and understanding at ABC.

It is not overstatement or hyperbole to say that these folks and their wonderful program saved Danny’s life. It is simply the truth and the ABC School is truly deserving of recognition.”