Our family has had experiences with several non-public schools since our son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 20 months. Today Ian is a robust 18 years old, and although he is a happy young man in general, he still remains mostly non-verbal and needs assistance with many issues including behavior management.
Ian was never in a public school setting since we felt his needs (after trying a home program) could be better met in a NPS. There he would get speech therapy, music therapy, occupational therapy and more. Originally at ABC School, then Land Park Academy, and now at Odyssey, this has proven to be the right road for him. Each time we changed schools, it was for a logical reason, since as he grew up, his needs changed and what the schools could offer him became more limited. Five years at each school seemed plenty too, so when we were finally referred to Odyssey Learning Center, we hoped that this would be a good match for the maturing Ian.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that Odyssey has worked out great for him. His first teacher, Liz Gomes, had many years of experience at the school and really made the transition so much easier. From the updated campus to the exercise equipment in each room to the extra services offered and the community based outings, all have made a difference in Ian’s education and his functional skills. Plus the advice from experienced staff and the open-minded attitude toward requests for information and other accommodations that Ian needed really helped our family a lot. After two years, Ian now has a new teacher, Melanie, and we expect to find the same skilled educator that we found in Liz.
Our son still struggles with behavior excesses at times, many times because he doesn’t feel well and can’t communicate that. But the staff is well-trained and compassionate towards him, helping to keep him from hurting himself and others during these infrequent episodes. His safety and security is a prime concern of ours, as well as his health and his feelings. And I think Odyssey staff understands that, for all of our children.
We don’t know where Ian is headed in the future—hopefully to a home or a job or an environment that will make him feel content and safe, and where he has fun too. But for now, Odyssey is assisting us in getting him to that goal, and we are grateful for it!
“Our family’s relationship with Odyssey Learning Center began more than 15 years ago and has culminated with Zack’s successful December 2009 graduation at 22 years old. We fought a battle, as many in our situation do, and Odyssey was the prize. Where do we begin to talk about the positive impact Odyssey and its staff had on him and our family? I could talk about the fact that he had been in other programs where no progress was made in his development and there was nothing but stress and negativity. Or, I could talk about the exemplary program and staff which took Zack further than we had hoped or known possible. Yes, we knew he was smart and there was someone wonderful waiting to emerge and contribute in a positive way to the world, but it took an incredible staff who were skilled and dedicated , and a program which provided opportunities like we had never experienced in the public sector where tremendous growth was possible.
Zack had gone from being the “forgotten child” to a social butterfly loved and admired by all who never stopped smiling. Odyssey proved that you could effectively teach a child like Zack through love and consistency in a program where the word “failure” doesn’t exist. I could talk about the mechanics of the program: curriculum designed for the individual needs of the child, accommodating schedule, benefits of year round instruction, small class size, incredible staff to student ratios, and access to the community.
But, those are the things you could easily document—the tangibles. I’d rather talk about the stuff that is harder to measure. Once you step onto the campus and into a classroom you’ll see and feel that something special goes on there. We just didn’t send our child to a new school, we found a second family. We found people we could trust with the very life of our son. His unique needs were taken into consideration from day one. Zack had extensive medical issues which required a round-the-clock medicine regime, which was not easy to accommodate. They administered him some form of life saving medication every hour he was in their care while continuing to meet and exceed his educational needs. To be a parent of a child as medically/developmentally involved as Zack, is not easy, to let go and turn that care over to someone else is even harder. I hate to admit it, but they often did a better job of it than we did! What can you say about Teacher Liz, Principal Cindee and support staff who helped us have the most “normal” life we could given the circumstances. It’s not every day a teacher aide can literally save a child’s life, but that’s what happened on the day Teacher-aide, Stephanie, gave her kidney to our son.
So on that graduation day, which proved to be one of the happiest days of our lives, as we witnessed our now young man strut proudly by in cap and gown, it was also one of the worst days knowing we would all be moving on—after all, hadn’t that been the goal in the first place? Some teachers are forgotten, but family stays constant—and our “Odyssey Family” will forever remain in our hearts. And, yes, we do make the occasional classroom visit, birthday party, or bowling event and plan to continue the tradition for years to come.”
- Karen Ritchie
The Davis Family
My family thought long and hard before making the decision to share the upbringing of our son, Addison, with Odyssey Learning Center. We have never regretted that decision for a moment.
Throughout the 10 years of his attendance, Addison has been the recipient of the time-honored practice of “teach the child in the manner in which he learns.”
Addison is non-verbal, autistic and has Down Syndrome. How Addison learns is how he is being taught. The Odyssey staff that teaches him does so with words, manipulatives, print, music, visuals. He learns. On site and off site, he learns. One-on-one and in small groups, he learns.
The Odyssey Learning Center stands with us in the education, training and caring of our son. It has, indeed, enhanced the life of our family.
The Davis Family
When my son Thomas was diagnosed with autism in the late 1980’s, we didn’t have many places to go. At that time, the disability was not diagnosed very often and there was not a great deal written about treatment programs. It was a hard time for our family for all the reasons one can imagine. We gave the public school system a chance to work, but Tom’s autism was very severe and all of the classes he was in resulted in little success. We made the difficult decision to place Thomas at Odyssey Learning Center when he was six years old. His behavior was aggressive, out of control and destructive. Up to that point, I had many behaviorists try to help us in our home, but there was limited progress. Although residential placement was the hardest decision I ever made, looking back now I can see it was the best decision I made for Thomas’s future. Odyssey Learning Center offered 24/7 support and intervention for Tom’s severe autism. The school program has experienced and dedicated staff. The staff at Odyssey has the perfect blend of experience, compassion, knowledge and commitment. The residential component was also key in helping shape Thomas’s behaviors and facilitate better life skills. Odyssey took each different experience and set of new problems and let me be involved as a parent. They took what I had to say seriously and always had the awareness that autism affects the whole family. Odyssey stays apprised of recent research, teaching techniques and all aspects of autism that are pertinent. During Tom’s stay at Odyssey of fifteen, years, I loved that they treated me as a respected member of the care team. I felt I could ask questions and suggest new ideas. My concerns were met with respect and within the “team approach” framework. It was very hard for me to live 2 hours away from Thomas all those years, but I always knew that he was in good hands and that he was safe and cared for. Now that Thomas lives closer to home, I am happy to be able to see him often. He is peaceful now. He loves his family and we are able to understand him in ways we had not been able to before. I am grateful to Odyssey for seeing us through some of the most difficult times you can imagine. I am grateful to Odyssey for caring for my son in the midst of tremendous chaos, for treating him with dignity and respect and for understanding autism and its wide reaching affects. If anyone has been around kids or adults with autism for any length of time, they soon understand it is about more than the disability. It’s about helping each person develop their own unique way of managing their challenges and finding new hope. It’s about learning to cope, and learning to support one another in the approach that makes sense for everyone involved. That is what Odyssey is all about. Families often feel very alone when they are going through the experience of raising a child with autism. Odyssey is there to help navigate this path. Their years of commitment to helping kids and young adults with autism, is truly remarkable. I do not believe Thomas would where he is now, without their help and their involvement in our lives.
- Connie Gunn