Help more children like Marcus gain the confidence to lead successful and rewarding lives.
By the time Marcus was asked to leave his fourth daycare in as many years, his mom, Suzanne, was at her wit's end. His unpredictable and sometimes violent behavior made her question her own parenting skills and Marcus' ability to ever find a place where he belonged.
From an early age, Suzanne witnessed uncharacteristic and quirky behavior in Marcus.
At 6 months old, Marcus was having violent tantrums.
By 4 years old, he was pacing, obsessively playing video games and focused on knowing everything about a specific topic -- such as Star Wars.
Suzanne waited for him to outgrow the behaviors but each just became more amplified. Her last hope, before quitting her job to care for Marcus full time, was to see a behavior specialist.
Within 20 minutes, the diagnosis was clear—Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Individuals with ASD exhibit a variety of characteristics which can range from mild to severe. Characteristics include deficiencies in social skills, difficulties with change, obsessive routines and preoccupation with a particular subject of interest. They may also have a great deal of difficulty interpreting body language and have an oversensitivity to sound, taste, smell, sight and touch.
Putting a name to what caused Marcus to behave the way he did was just a start. Suzanne still needed to find a school that would accept her 5-year-old son for who he was. Her "last hope" was Easterseals New Hampshire's Madeline A. Galeucia Child Development Center -- which integrates children of all abilities ages 6 weeks to 6 years.
Suzanne admits when Marcus started school in September, things were "bumpy in the beginning." But after giving Marcus time to connect with his teachers and classmates, it began to feel comfortable for him because his teachers gave him the option of working in his own way. He learned not only to function in the classroom, but to excel.
"Easterseals was open minded enough to work with us and learn what Marcus needed," says Suzanne, of the center that has made a profound difference for her son and her family. "They went the extra distance and it is so worth it for me to know that he comes to school every day and is happy. It has made tremendous difference at home too."
Marcus' teachers, Matt and Bethany, said making him feel comfortable at school and with the other students was not difficult. His "amazing imagination" and sense of humor helped him to fit right in.
"We give him the freedom to be the boss he sometimes needs to be. We're all about encouraging independence," said Matt. "He's a great addition to this classroom and the kids have benefited from Marcus being here."
And "here" is right where Suzanne wants her son to stay. Not only is he having a good time, but he's accepted, which is equally important. Each day when Marcus arrives for school, he is so excited Suzanne has to keep him from running across the parking lot to get inside.
"I've noticed Marcus has this new, confident swagger since coming to Easterseals. He's the man!" says Suzanne. "He belongs here and this has become a second family to him."
Suzanne jokes she would like to keep Marcus at the Center forever. "But I'm not so sure they would know what to do with a 35-year-old man," she laughs.