One Family’s Journey to Green ChimneysMay 8, 2017
Green Chimneys taught me that when you feel you are alone heading down a dark, never-ending road, it just might be leading you to the brightest most promising place you have ever been.
Our family has been through so many ups and downs since Diego was diagnosed with Autism at the age of two. Though there were many challenges dealing with his diagnosis, I always found myself embracing and enjoying the unique perspective he brought to our lives. As Diego grew older, balancing who he was with the acceptance of society brought our family to a sad turn in our journey. Diego was moved from one school to another and kept regressing; the progress we had made in his younger years was just crumbling around us. He attended 4 different schools over a 3-year period and this created a great deal of anxiety, frustration and depression within him. He was hospitalized twice in one year for depression. WHAT?? My little boy was born with Autism, a disability he did not choose, and society has made him feel as if he does not fit in this world! I tried so hard to nurture and protect him. How could this be?
In a therapy session during his last hospitalization, I will never forget the pit in my stomach when I heard the recommendation for residential placement. Live away from home? He is only 10, not 18! I never felt more like a failure in my life…I was unable to help my son enough at home. I knew we needed help and this thought was terrifying but we came to understand that our home was not the only support Diego needed at this time. After searching for a facility, we decided that Green Chimneys would be the best fit for our son.
In spring 2016, Diego became a resident at Green Chimneys. As we walked the campus I kept telling myself to look at this beautiful peaceful place but inside I just wanted to drop to my knees and cry. During the intake process I started to feel calmness from the kindness and compassion I felt from the staff. I felt an unspoken peace while we visited the animals, which began to ease my anxiety. When it was time to walk away, it was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done but I felt this glimpse of hope.
Now one year later, I cannot thank the staff at Green Chimneys enough. Everyone – the residential, behavioral, academic, psychological and medical staff – has made a huge difference our lives. Diego finally feels he has found his place in this world. No longer does my son say I do not fit in in this world; instead he wakes up feeling accepted and respected. He is learning how to cope and adapt without feeling beat down and rejected. His emotions and frustrations are worked through with care and guidance instead of being suppressed and left without validation. He no longer feels he is crazy but can make you aware he thinks differently. He does not feel alone and without friends; instead he is surrounded by friends going through similar experiences.
The dorm staff could not do a better job consoling both Diego and me during the times we miss each other. Though I am not able to see Diego on a daily basis they communicate his progress and challenges. Diego is an only child so living with seven other boys was a shock that the staff handled with grace. They turn every situation between the eight boys into a positive lesson; some are lessons I could have never taught him at home. Diego has grown tremendously both socially and emotionally because of their daily guidance.
Before Green Chimneys, Diego never received a normal grade. We were always told he was smart but his behaviors made it impossible to accurately grade him. During a recent parent-teacher conference I cried tears of joy; Diego is performing at grade-level and his grades range from 87-104 in every subject!! He is wanting to participate and do well in school. He tells me “Mommy, I love to learn and Mr. Dalpe is a great teacher!” I no Ionger hear he broke his pencil, crawled under his desk and refused to do his work.
At his previous schools Diego was barely exposed to extracurricular activities and field trips were unheard of. Diego is always excited about the different opportunities and wide variety of activities Green Chimneys has to offer. He comes home excited about everything from dancing in a talent show to showing me how he learned to knit! He shows pride from making a box in woodshop to singing Christmas carols at a nursing home. His farm job provides him with a sense of purpose and responsibility needed in life. He recently earned a trip to see The Lion King on Broadway, that he understood came with his progress in managing his behavior.
The social workers work not only tirelessly with your children but they provide the families with support like no other program; from monthly workshops on weekends to individual counseling sessions for families. You feel that you are a part of the treatment team and are given the appropriate tools to actively participate in your child’s plan. I do not feel helpless and without guidance! From day one there has been an actionable treatment plan applicable while Diego is at school and while he is at home. We have never had such a sense peace in our lives at both home and school.
Green Chimneys is a beautiful, safe place of hope sitting on a hill in a peaceful valley where wonderful people, special children and innocent creatures come together in harmony.