After years of loving care at home, Asma and Neveed came to a difficult conclusion: that their son, Faiz, the eldest of five, would benefit from a residential school program. By age nine, Faiz was unable to speak and prone to self-injury. But when his parents sought support from the Robert J. McMahon Children’s Center and the on-campus Tyree Learning Center last year, everything began to change.
Upon arrival, recalls teacher Andrea Verios, “Faiz had no way to communicate. He was frustrated, sad and defiant, hitting his own face incessantly.” But in the Tyree Learning Center’s structured environment, Faiz flourished.
Andrea implemented a picture exchange system (PECS) book filled with sentence-starters like “I want,” “I see” or “I need” – and it unlocked the world for Faiz. Gaining the ability to communicate changed everything. In the classroom, Faiz earns prized rewards for his progress, such as balls or trampoline time. And he has developed a close relationship with his roommate.
Faiz is also gaining real independence, from putting on his shoes to setting the table for lunch, to proudly fetching the backpack and medical bag for weekly field trips to the park or library. “We’re working on financial concepts,” explains Andrea, “and he handles the trip money, taking real pride in making purchases for the group.”
Faiz goes home on weekends, where he uses PECS to do what had been impossible for the first nine years of his life: communicate with his own family. While home, he enjoys playing with his brothers and sisters, and loves to go outside into the community – something he had trouble doing in the past.
“His progress has been exponential,” says Andrea. “In barely a year, he’s surpassed everyone’s expectations. It’s been transformative.”
“It was a very hard decision to have him live away from home,” says Asma. “But for now, it’s the right place for him.”