My son Matthew’s journey started when my son was diagnosed with PDD at 21 months. We were soon thereafter introduced to MARC because we were told that he was entitled to certain therapies at home, including speech, OT and PT too, I believe. These people were frequent visitors in our home to help Matthew bridge the gap in the areas that needed boosting, so they were coming often 2x per week. As you can imagine, the therapists would eventually feel like friends because of the amount of time they spend with you and your child. It is a good thing to have when you are just starting to get used to the “new life” with the impact the diagnosis can have on you as the parent and as your family as a whole and most importantly, your sweet and innocent child who has to very possibly face his or her entire life with the struggles associated with same.
As time went on from the first year, I found out that Matthew was entitled to join a small classroom setting for some of his therapies, and I jumped at that chance because it allowed him to have a little preschool experience and some socialization as well. It also allowed me to meet other parents who were faced with similar situations. In addition, it allowed my other son to meet other siblings and that was just a bonus. There were occasional events that would arise out of the school setting, which were a welcome family activity from time to time. All of these things are helpful in the whole adjustment process and just enjoying the “new and different life” as parents of a child with autism or any disability for that matter.
I can remember during that year when Matthew was in the little preschool class, another parent and I helped quite a bit to organize their major fundraiser for that year with a bunch of raffled items. It was fun to do and a welcome distraction as well as I recall. I remember the event being a success and it was a fun evening for everyone. We were able to raise quite a bit of money for MARC that year and it felt like a way to say thank you for all of the time and efforts that the organization had done for our kids.
As I look back on that time, it was a difficult period because we as parents were still getting used to the different path that our lives were taking that we don’t have any control over, and it definitely was nice feeling as though we weren’t alone during the process. After having gone through many more years of this different path, I have a better understanding of the journey. Life is still hard and different, but we parents of special needs kids appreciate so many little accomplishments more than the average parent because we know what goes into them and we also have an unspoken code, I think. It’s kind of like “we get it.” I would like to think that the journey has made me and my husband better people as parents than we were before because it can’t help but change you. I am grateful for that and what we have learned along the way.
Once that year was over, our contact with MARC was very seldom as we were involved with the Montgomery County IU for quite a few years after that. As I recall, I believe we may have gone to an event or two as a way to contribute to a fundraiser in the years after we left MARC, but that was probably the extent of our contact for several years. More recently, however, when deciding on which service I wanted to provide my son’s support coordination, I chose The Arc Alliance and I am glad that I did. I have been happy with his supports coordinator, Lisa Henderson. In addition, I feel like The Arc Alliance tries to organize events for people with disabilities of all ages and it is so nice that they try to do this. There are many people that look so forward to events like that. We can’t always take advantage of these, but I can remember going on a train ride in New Hope with Matthew recently that was organized by Arc and it was a really nice activity out together. We were treated so well and it was just an enjoyable afternoon for Matthew and myself and remains a fond memory.
In closing, I would say that it is nice to know that there is an organization that really tries to do right by our loved ones and has their best interest in mind while they are working hard to make their lives a little better in whatever way they can. It is comforting to having someone in your corner for all of us.
Anne Marie Newell