At two and a half years old, Michelle was diagnosed with Autism and an intellectual disability. Her parents were in shock and didn’t know what to do because, at the time, there was limited information about her diagnosis. As parents, they realized that they needed to make difficult decisions about Michelle’s life, especially her future.
Michelle’s parents wanted their daughter to have a full life and were concerned as to whether Michelle would be able to even learn basic life skills. Knowing that she had an intellectual disability and Autism gave them an understanding of her limitations with learning but they recognize that Michelle learns at her own pace and continues to learn today.
At her intake interview at St. Mary’s, Michelle experienced a massive seizure. When the staff at St. Mary’s intervened and provided care to Michelle, her parents felt that they were concerned that her seizures would prevent her from being accepted to the program because other places would not accept Michelle for that reason. They were ecstatic when they received the news in the days following the incident that Michelle was accepted into the Medical Day Healthcare Program at St. Mary’s. They knew St. Mary’s was the right place for Michelle to help her have a happy, rewarding life with exceptional care.
Since her acceptance into the Medical Day Healthcare Young Adult Program at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children, there has not been one day that Michelle or her parents have had a reason for concern. There is no doubt that Michelle is very happy at St. Mary’s. She participates in recreational, educational and physical activities throughout the day and has developed new friendships. By attending St. Mary’s Young Adult Program, Michelle has been able to freely express herself and has become an advocate for her needs. While most patients with autism have an issue with spatial awareness, knocking over things or bumping into people, because of the therapy Michelle has been receiving – occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy – she walks and talks more purposefully and is happier.
Recently, the Medical Day Healthcare Program has extended the Young Adult Program allowing for patients up to 30 years of age. St. Mary’s counselors work with participants to promote their skills, confidence and independence in a nurturing environment. Family members are also educated on the critical roles they play in the child’s success. For Michelle’s parents, having St. Mary’s support has enriched their lives. For them, St. Mary’s Hospital for Children has become a second home and an extension of their family.