I will never forget the day that our neurologist told me our son had Autism.  He observed Michael, asked some questions and said, “Your son has Autism. He will never tell you he loves you. He will never be independent and you need to accept that he will live with you the rest of his life.” As the doctor walked out the door with our hopes and dreams for our first born son, we began our journey to prove him wrong.

Michael attended early childhood classes in one school district, but moved to another district for kindergarten through third grade which proved to be a very rocky.  I tried working with the school’s staff, but it seemed as if I had to fight for any service that was needed. When there was finally a routine and things were on track, the school would pull his paraprofessional and cut back on his “minutes.”

There was so much potential inside Michael and I realized we had to find a school that could teach to his strengths and shore up his weaknesses.  A late night internet search found Miriam Learning Center’s website and we soon enrolled him in their after-school program for social skills.  This really helped Michael!

Thanks to the outpouring of support, which included everything from garage sales and raffle tickets to a small trivia night with our community, family and friends, Michael enrolled in 4th grade in 2014 at Miriam School. The boy who loved learning but dreaded attending school because of past experiences, was coming back within just a few short weeks of being at Miriam. Though he still expressed some typical autistic behaviors, they became less and less and eventually stopped altogether.

Michael is now in 7th grade at Miriam School and doing great!  I no longer dread getting “the phone call” like when he was in public school.  I trust the teachers and staff to do what is in the best interest of my child, academically and socially.  The small class size and incredible staff have made a huge difference for Michael.  Miriam’s personalized approach to learning has been the key to unlocking my son’s potential.

Since coming to Miriam, I have seen so many positive changes in Michael. Thanks to cooking classes, Michael eats a variety of foods that were once a sensory problem for him. He’s even helping in our home kitchen with chores.  Most importantly, Michael can now advocate for himself.  He can step back and say, “I need a break, or the occupational therapy/OT room, or I just need more help.”  And yes, Michael can tell us he loves us, and comprehend what that means.

We know that Michael is now getting the therapies he needs, as well as an excellent education that will help him succeed not only in school, but in life.  The teachers, therapists, and administration really know how to support our son.  It is truly a partnership between parents and school.

The past four years have been full of sacrifices, but we are happy to make them because we know that academically, physically, and socially Miriam saved our son.  Miriam School has placed the future we seek for Michael within reach.

-Submitted by Misti Schwaller