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From Diagnosis to Diploma (New York)

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

My name is Marlene B.

and I have a son named Logan. AspireHope, Inc. helped both of us succeed.

After experiencing my own physical and academic struggles as a child without receiving any diagnosis, I noticed early on that my son also had fine motor and eye-hand delays as well as other milestone delays. Although ruled out due to his social skills and normal language development without any regression, I thought that he was on the autism spectrum. The most that the professionals would say is that Logan has “autism-like” issues. He did have success with an early intervention program and especially later in a small K/1 classroom with an aide and teacher who worked closely with parents.

However, once we moved and because he had no formal diagnosis, he was mainstreamed without supports and things fell apart. He experienced sleep issues, and school “meltdowns.” He was frequently suspended and placed in a behavioral intervention program.

The school personnel and mental health providers began meeting and made plans for him without input from my son or me, and I was told I had to agree to their decisions. They brought in a doctor who gave Logan multiple diagnoses and medications, none of which helped. They labelled him a “bad kid” and me an “unfit mother.”

Luckily, around this time, I connected with a case manager who helped me obtain my own diagnosis: autism with severe nerve delays, anxiety and depression. Most importantly, she connected me with AspireHope NY, Inc.

My Family Peer Advocate, Loretta Maldonado helped me learn my rights and she and my case manager attended the next meeting where I fired my son’s mental health provider and his case manager. They helped me request a multi-agency meeting where I met Logan’s new case manager, Jack Sharkey, a wonderful, caring and knowledgeable individual from Elmira Psychiatric Center (EPC). He and Loretta helped me find a new education program. Jack took us to EPC, and after 2 ½ weeks inpatient there, Logan received the correct diagnosis and a wonderful day-treatment program where he flourished. He attended the Autism Program at Midlakes Education Center (a 5-year high school program).

Through AspireHopeNY’s Youth program, my son also learned to advocate for himself. He attended the Families Together of New York State conference and speaks out against bullying. My son graduated in 2017 with a Regents Diploma. He has a part time job and is a part time college student.

I credit AspireHopeNY, Inc. staff members Loretta Maldonado, Jeannine Struble and Patti DiNardo for their continual support for my son and me along this journey. They involved Logan in a program of his peers and offered me trainings and the knowledge to help other families. I am an active member of their Board of Directors as a thank you and I hope AspireHopeNY can continue to support others long into the future. We are a real success story!

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