Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Durand Academy & Community Services Employee of the Month - June 2014

Congratulations to our newly named Employees for the Month of June!

June 2014
Yunus Reed - Woodbury ATS Program
Shawn Jackson  - Tidewater Group Home

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Thief in the Night

By Irisa Leverette, Contributing Blogger. We are happy to introduce our new guest blogger and “Warrior Mom” Irisa Leverette! Irisa resides in NJ and has an 8 year old son Darius. At 3 years old, Darius was diagnosed with Autism. In the monthly blog series, Irisa will be sharing what life is like as she and her husband raise Darius.

When my son was 18 months old, a thief entered my home. To this day, I am still not sure the exact time of entry or how this intruder got in. If I had to guess, it had to be at night, while we were sleeping. This was a planned attack. The thief knew exactly what he wanted and had mapped out my house to find it. He was not looking for money, gold, silver or electronics. He had spotted his target many times when I was outside of the house. So the thief had a clear picture of his target. At that time, I didn’t know that there was a sly, clever and selfish thief around me.

Now you may find this strange but it wasn’t obvious to me that I was robbed and that my life would change forever. The first sign that I noticed was my son’s behavior. He was very quiet, speechless as if a cat had his tongue. He was no longer singing his favorite song "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." When I called his name, “Darius” or said, “Darius give me toy,” he had a very puzzling look on his face. I thought he was pretending not to hear me. I discussed his actions with my husband. He agreed that something was different about our little boy. What was wrong with Darius? Yesterday, he was this bright toddler and now he seemed to be trapped in a different world. How could a child no longer recognize his name? This was not child’s play. We have been robbed! Who was this thief? Why did he target our little boy? What happened to the little boy who was the star of his class at the Little Gym? Where was the little boy who started walking at 10 months? How did the little boy who loved Blue Clues forget the songs from the show?

The Thief in the Night was Autism aka The Big ‘’A”. Autism! Autism! Autism! If I said it three times, maybe it would go away. I saw my hopes, my dreams, my baseball star, and my lead in the school’s play floating down the drain.

I have been on a roller coaster ride since then. Now, My son is 8 and Autism is our life 24/7. I wouldn’t change my son for the world. Autism is a part of him. Today, we have different Hopes and Dreams for our Star.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Durand Academy and Community Services, Inc.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Durand Academy & Community Services Employee of the Month - May 2014

May 2014:  Jeremy Gono, Mt. Laurel ATS Program

Monday, May 5, 2014

Expect the Unexpected

By Irisa Leverette, Contributing Blogger. We are happy to introduce our new guest blogger and “Warrior Mom” Irisa Leverette! Irisa resides in NJ and has an 8 year old son Darius. At 3 years old, Darius was diagnosed with Autism. In the monthly blog series, Irisa will be sharing what life is like as she and her husband raise Darius.

A couple of weeks ago, I took Darius to get his hearing tested. His pediatrician recommended that I take him to an audiologist since he failed the hearing screening at school. When I called to make the appointment, I informed the office that he is Autistic, mostly non-verbal and has a difficult time understanding directions. I wanted the doctor to be prepared for his visit.

The morning of his appointment, Darius and I arrived to the building at 8am. He was not familiar with this place, so he dragged his feet up the path leading to the entrance. Once inside, he appeared nervous and confused. As soon as I signed in, the receptionist gave me a bunch of forms to fill out. So that Darius would not take off running, I held his hand tight as I wrote. Whenever, we go to the doctor or dentist, he tries to run away from me. When I was done with the paperwork, I located a small table in the corner away from the other patients. While we waited for our turn, Darius listened to music on his toy piano. He never leaves home without it. It calms him when he is feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

Fortunately, we did not wait too long before the doctor called us. As soon as he heard his name, he pulled me towards the door. He did not know what to expect; therefore, he wanted to leave. I quickly took his hand and led him right behind the doctor. We followed her into a small padded and insulated room. It reminded me of a space shuttle.

Before she began the testing, she asked if Darius responds to loud noises. I mentioned that he can not tolerate loud sounds like vacuum cleaners and fire alarms. He responds by covering his ears to block out these sounds. Then, she noted that she was going to insert a small probe in each ear to test for hearing loss. She inserted the probe into his right ear, he immediately snatched it out. I had a feeling this was going to happen. Darius does not like his ears to be touched, especially by a stranger. He trusts me and I still have a hard time getting him to let me clean his ears. I decided to wrap by arms around him to help keep him still. Again, she inserted the tip; he squirmed like a worm. Seeing that he was uncomfortable with objects in his ears, the doctor decided to try a different test.

For this test, the doctor explained that she was going to play a sound and when Darius heard it, hopefully, he would turn his head to find it. The doctor seated us in a chair facing a tinted window. Then she went into an adjacent room from ours to administer the test. Next, a drumming sound came roaring out of a speaker located to our left. Without delay, Darius turned his head in that direction. All of a sudden, my pants felt wet. I looked down to see why. To my surprise, Darius had peed! I called out to the doctor and told her what he had done. At that instant, she stopped the test and rushed into the room. By then, Darius had taken off all his clothes. He was standing in the middle of the room in his birthday suit. We looked at each other and laughed.

Until now, he has not had an accident since being potty trained at four. I think Darius was taken by surprise. For one thing, he wasn’t expecting to hear a loud boom being transmitted through a speaker. Also, he didn’t know why he was there and what the doctor was going to do. He was in an unknown place feeling scared and anxious; he just wanted to be at home or school, his two favorite places. The doctor stood outside the door while I dressed him. I put his shirt and pants back on, but his underwear was too wet to wear. Afterwards, the doctor escorted us to the front desk and I rescheduled the test for another day.

Although, the doctor was not able to complete the test, the visit was not a total waste. After all, I learned a valuable lesson from this. At first, I felt embarrassed. Then, I realized with Autism you have to expect the unexpected. Darius has been to the doctor dozens of times; he never had a problem. I expected the same result this time. The unexpected occurred and we exited the building wearing wet clothes along with a doggy bag with underwear inside.

On the next visit, I will be prepared for an episode of incontinence. I am bringing along a change of clothing for him. Also, we are sitting in separate chairs. I plan to stay dry this time. I can not foresee the future but this time I will not fail to expect the unexpected.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Durand Academy and Community Services, Inc.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Durand Academy & Community Services Employees of the Month - March & April 2014

Congratulations to our newly named Employees of the Month!

March 2014: Eric Hall -  Hawk Lane Group Home

March 2014: Tanya Carmickel - Mt. Laurel ATS Program



April 2014: Monique Hawkins- Fox Chase Group Home

April 2014: Kim Troy - Woodbury ATS Program

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sleepless in New Jersey

By Irisa Leverette, Contributing BloggerWe are happy to introduce our new guest blogger and “Warrior Mom” Irisa Leverette! Irisa resides in NJ and has an 8 year old son Darius. At 3 years old, Darius was diagnosed with Autism. In the monthly blog series, Irisa will be sharing what life is like as she and her husband raise Darius.

As I was preparing to write this second blog post, I was wondering, what from my “Autism World” should I write about?  My mind was deluged with so many ideas; I thought my head was going to explode. When Darius was diagnosed as a toddler, I did not understand Autism. I ruminated about this disorder that had taken me to an unfamiliar place. I had to get answers. So, I grabbed my mouse and began surfing the web. The internet was an emporium for articles and real life stories about Autism. These articles were helpful; however, experience has been my real teacher.

One of the most exhausting things that I have experienced is sleep deprivation. It came as a package deal with Autism. I thought my sleep deprived days were over when Darius was no longer an infant. For years, sleep deprivation completely debilitated me. I never knew what time we were going to bed. My internal clock was in constant conflict with my external clock. I ran on Darius’ time. We had an unofficial midnight routine in place. Either we were waking after midnight or going to bed after midnight. For some reason, I was able to handle going to bed late but being woken up in the middle of the night was a nightmare. I had this kid that was full of steam, blasting music, dancing and singing. If you were to peek in our window, you would think it was 12PM instead of 12AM. There were times I almost dozed off. It is very easy to do when you are not the one partying. To keep from falling asleep, I would do housework, grade papers, and prepare his lunch for school.

I had to do something to solve our sleep problem. Sleep is very important for a growing child. Plus, I needed adequate sleep to take care of him. I decided to develop a pre-bedtime routine. Each night at 9pm, I give him a bath. He loves water. He splashes water everywhere and I am usually soaked and wet when it is over. After his bath, we brush his teeth. By the time we are finished, toothpaste is all over the sink and half of his teeth are cleaned. Finally, he lies in bed listening to music or watching a video on his tablet. He falls asleep about 30 to 40 minutes later.

This routine has been a lifesaver for us. It has cut our sleepless nights down to about three a month. As a write this, it is close to midnight. I am waiting for Darius to fall asleep. Tonight, after his bath, he was chugging around like Thomas the Tank Engine. You would think that he had skittles for dinner. He still wanted to party like a rock star. Now, he is watching Barney on Youtube and not dancing around the room. Once in awhile, Autism wins. No matter how challenging it is, I don’t deter from his bedtime routine not even on weekends or holidays. Routines are hard to get started but easily broken.

Hopefully, Darius will fall asleep soon.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Durand Academy and Community Services, Inc.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Two of Durand’s Newest Board-Members Receive Honors

We are delighted to announce the achievements of two of Durand’s newest board members.  Dr. Jacqueline Kaari (A&CS Board), has been selected as one a “Top Children’s Physician” in 2014 and Eleanor Kubacki (Foundation Board) has been selected as one of the “Best 50 Women in Business” 2014. Please see the links below:

Eleanor Kubacki, “Best 50 Women in Business” 2014


http://www.njbiz.com/article/20140213/AWARDS/140219841/Eleanor-Kubacki---Best-50-Women-in-Business


Dr. Jacqueline Kaari - Top Children’s Physician













http://www.southjersey.com/articles/?articleID=29124&pageid=0&categoryid=175