Letters of Recommendation, Continued
August 10, 2008
We are writing as clients of Mr. Jesse Kushner and his company, Professional Education and Respite Service, to share our story of the remarkable progress we have made as a family with Mr. Kushner's guidance during the past few months. First, I'll give you some background information on our family.
John (“Johnny”), one of our three children, is nine years old, and he is a loving, affectionate, handsome boy with a great sense of humor. John is completely non-verbal, and has severe autism and is not yet toilet trained. When he gets frustrated or angry or excited, he can sometimes be aggressive and very loud.
For the past nine years, our son and his “special needs” had been in complete control of our entire family. Our two other children, a daughter who is “neuro-typical” (if there is such a thing) and our other son, who has Asperger Syndrome, had been pretty limited in their experiences and opportunities because we had allowed Johnny and his “special needs” to control our lives.
Until several months ago, we thought this was what we were supposed to be doing. When you are blessed with children, let alone two children with “special needs;” your life changes in dramatic ways. Our working theory for the past nine years had been that we must do whatever we had to do to take good care of our son with the most “special needs” and cater to his every need as if it was our first priority. We all love John dearly and we desperately WANTED to help him, and this was the way we thought we were supposed to do that.
As Johnny grew older and stronger, he also became more aggressive and more determined to do what he wanted and get his own way RIGHT when he wanted it. Since he is completely nonverbal, for him, getting his own way usually included a rapid escalation to violence if what he wanted didn’t happen VERY quickly. We all lived in fear of his sometimes violent tantrums, and did everything we could think of to preempt them. Our entire family tried to appease his anger by anticipating and meeting his every desire. The consequences to our family were crippling.
John’s siblings stopped trying to make friends early in elementary school. They were afraid to invite other kids over to play for fear that his tantrums would scare other children. They both became depressed and anxious. Johnny’s dad started working later and later, unconsciously (or maybe consciously) trying to avoid the chaos at home. As a family, we rarely ventured out into public for fear that our son would have one of his earth-shaking tantrums. Like our children, we did not dare have friends over out of fear of what he would do.
My husband and I are well-educated people. My husband earned two degrees from Harvard, and my undergraduate degree is from the College of William and Mary. We read every self-help book we could find, went to countless seminars and took Johnny to every medical specialist imaginable. Nothing really helped. Nothing, that is, until we met Mr. Jesse Kushner. Professional Education and Respite Service (P.E.R.S.) has dramatically changed our lives over the course of the past few months. Thanks to Mr. K. and P.E.R.S., we finally feel positive and hopeful about our family, and our new feeling of independence is wonderful.
Mr. Kushner has thirty years of experience in the field of special education. He began by teaching us several simple but very essential philosophies on teaching children with “special” needs. One of his foremost beliefs is that each child must be expected to “do” for himself as much as he can, and NOT be treated as “special” and held to “special“ (lower) standards than so-called “typically developing” children. Mr. K doesn't even like to use the term 'special" needs. He helped us to realize in a direct but gentle and compassionate manner that we were doing our son a disservice by not expecting as much from him as we expected from our typically developing children.
During the past few months, Mr. K. has patiently, persistently and expertly led our family through a major transformation. He and one of his wonderful employees came into our house and carefully evaluated our situation. They observed our daily life, explained what needed to change, and then helped us put into place an unbelievably effective system that solved SO MANY problems for us. For example, as a part of his new program, John now follows a picture schedule which includes daily table work, cleaning up around the house, and other activities. He LOVES knowing what's going to happen next and cooperates beautifully. Mr. K and his employee also accompanied us out in public, going with us everywhere we wanted to go, from shopping at Target to eating lunch at Chuck E. Cheese to swimming at the neighborhood pool (all places we would never have been able to take John before) and teaching us how to cope with issues as they arose. With very simple changes in our behavior, the structure of the environment, and our expectations we soon found ourselves taking our entire family everywhere.
Mr. K further honed our skills by showing us how to use “two choices”, wait time, and a quiet corner to help our son maintain control of himself during the now very rare times that he becomes out of control. We never have to place our hands on our son to control him and we can very quietly discipline him in public with crowds all around us and no one is the wiser. He taught us how to use his sensory needs to positively effect our son’s behavior and by merely helping us to realize that our son should be called “ John” instead of “Johnny” he instantaneously helped the entire family to grow up and mature.
It is difficult for me to put into words how wonderful and liberating it is to have our new sense of family independence. So many options have opened up for us, and we owe it all and indebted to Mr. Kushner and Professional Education and Respite Service. In the past, my constant refrain was always "There is no such thing as a babysitter for Johnny." Now, in addition to the education services of P.E.R.S., we have also begun to utilize their respite services, and I am delighted to report that my husband and I are planning what will surely be a worry-free 20th wedding anniversary trip, secure in the knowledge that we will be able to leave John at home with one of Mr. K's extremely experienced, qualified, and dedicated employees and that they will continue John's new schedule and education. It will be SO MUCH MORE than mere baby-sitting!
Again, it's hard to express our excitement about our wonderful experience with P.E.R.S. during the past few months. We heartily recommend Mr. Kushner, a very caring, passionate man, and his company to other families. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Amy and Ben S.