Miriam is a nonverbal resident of Bellefaire’s Monarch Boarding Academy (MBA), but the active 16-year-old does not lack for self-expression.
“When Miriam signals on her SMART board that she is having a “Potato Emergency,” we know exactly what she means — she loves to eat all kinds of potatoes,” said Julia, Monarch Boarding Academy staff member. “We greatly enjoy her sense of humor, and can relate to a potato
But a potato emergency was something Miriam could not express when she came to MBA three years ago. Miriam had spent five years living in a residential center in another state. During that time she had stopped thriving and had developed such serious behavior problems she had to be put in restraints. Her mother sensed that much more could be done for her daughter, and refused to give up. She did extensive research and selected MBA for Miriam.
“When Miriam came to us she was very low functioning and prone to self-injury like head banging, biting and slapping herself,” said Julia. “She needed a great deal of supervision.”
After a thorough evaluation the Monarch team determined Miriam’s problems and disruptive
behavior went well beyond her being on the Autism spectrum. “We looked at the whole child and it was up to us to connect the dots,” said Julia.
Miriam had a thorough examination by a team of local doctors and was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, which caused gastro-intestinal and joint pain. She was also prone to chronic bladder infections and needed surgery for a hiatal hernia. Miriam was also pre-diabetic. None of these medical issues had been diagnosed or addressed at her former residential center.
Miriam’s mother’s instincts had proven correct. Soon Miriam’s schedule included many doctor’s appointments. She saw several specialists and underwent two surgeries. As Miriam’s symptoms eased, so did her behavioral outbursts.
“When children are calmer and are not in constant pain, they are able to learn better,” said
Julia. Slowly parts of Miriam’s life began to improve. The MBA team developed a specific toileting schedule for her and within months she had transferred out of diapers, increasing her independence and self-esteem.
A nutritionist addressed Miriam’s affinity for potatoes and developed a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean poultry and meats. Now when Miriam is hungry she uses the SMART board to write words such as kiwi, apple or chicken.
“Miriam is a fun, likable teenager,” said Julia. “She enjoys working in our garden, taking walks, watching TV, listening to music and going on outings to Target and other stores. Miriam still has occasional outbursts, but she is much more responsive to staff when we calm her down.” Each time Miriam’s mom makes the extensive weekend drive to visit Miriam, she is impressed by Miriam’s slow but steady progress. “She tells us how appreciative she is of Miriam’s care and how grateful she is that she acted on her maternal instincts to bring her daughter to us,” said Julia. “It is one thing to merely survive, it is quite another thing to thrive.”