Noah was born in New York and met many of his development milestones early on. His family was excited to welcome a warm, cheerful baby boy. But after his first birthday, something changed dramatically. Noah regressed, lost all verbal communication skills and began exhibiting extreme behavior issues that made life unusually hard for him and his family.
His parents jumped into action and had Noah evaluated by six different medical teams. Noah was diagnosed with autism, and doctors recommended that Noah receive a combination of behavioral and occupational therapy five hours a day, five days a week.
Relocation + Pandemic Sideline Support
When the family relocated to Florida, Noah’s parents prioritized his therapies and education. Unable to secure health insurance for him, they turned to a state program for children with autism. Officials there offered one hour of speech therapy once a week. “Can you imagine? You have a young child who is no longer speaking and has real behavior issues, and you’re going to address this with one hour of therapy a week? That’s not going to help,” says Noah’s dad, Eugene.
But things got even worse when the pandemic hit and Noah’s therapy stopped altogether.
His parents and grandmother tried their best to support Noah at home during the pandemic, but it was incredibly difficult. They couldn’t go to the store or open the door of their home without fear of what Noah might do. “It became too much,” says his mom, Amanda.
When schools reopened, they considered letting him attend the public school for which they’re zoned. Amanda recalls: “We toured the school and noticed that people could just walk right in and ask for a child, and they’d be allowed to leave with the child. How was that going to work with a child who is nonverbal and couldn’t tell them who he belongs with?"
Eugene adds: “We were really lost before we found Connections. My wife would cry, and we feared for Noah’s safety and future. He couldn’t go to a school that didn’t understand him. Noah was a runner. If a door was opened or left unlocked, he’d be gone in an instant. I didn’t see that the public school knew how to keep him off Okeechobee Blvd.”
Connecting to a Transformative School
Noah’s family was introduced to Connections through a friend and, after just one year at the school, he has made incredible progress.
“Connections has been nothing less than amazing. They understand him, and Noah has done a 180,” says Amanda. “When he started at Connections, he was having 30 tantrums a day. That’s down to 4 or 5 now. They’re teaching him how to calm himself and how to use tools to express his needs while he works on rebuilding language. Connections is the best thing that ever happened to Noah.”
With his recent progress, Noah is now better connecting with his family and is able to participate in activities that may seem ordinary but are extraordinary to his family because they weren’t possible before Connections. “He can take a walk with us without running away, hold our hands, go to the store with us, open containers of food that we give him and follow simple instructions. He’s more attentive and understands more of what we say,” says Amanda.
His dad notes that before Connections, Noah struggled to interact with cousins and peers and wouldn’t allow people to be near him. “His teachers are changing this. They’re helping him get out of his comfort zone and be more comfortable with others being next to him. He’s learning to share with classmates and to be part of a peer setting,” Eugene adds. “It’s incredible.”
Hopeful for the Future
As Noah’s family celebrates his incredible progress and looks to his future with optimism, they realize that many other families need the help they’ve found.
“It’s a miracle that we got into Connections and aren’t on the waitlist. They need to be fully funded so they can help more kids that need this school,” he says.