Wilfredo was eleven years old when he came to Melmark’s Children’s Services in April, 2003.
At that time, Wilfredo presented with intensely aggressive behaviors that prevented him from living at home.
Wilfredo has made remarkable progress in the classroom and at home. He now resides in one of Melmark’s community homes.
Wilfredo, now age 21, graduated from The Melmark School on Friday, June 14th.
After graduation, Wilfredo will transition into an adult program, where staff will continue to help him build daily living skills so he can live as independent a life as possible. [see more of Wilfredo's Story below his speech]
Good morning everyone!
I made a lot of good friends here at Melmark. I also have made a lot of progress too.
I learned to read books and write.
I am really good at math and counting money.
I worked at various job sites as well.
I folded clothes at Cradles to Crayons, washed dishes at Surrey, and swept at North Light Community Center.
I am thankful for my teachers and staff for teaching me to become an independent young man.
Thank you Melmark!
Thank you mom and dad!
The Melmark School proudly shares the story of 2013 graduate, Wilfredo, who was eleven years old when he came to Melmark’s Children’s Services in April, 2003. At that time, Wilfredo presented with intensely aggressive behaviors that prevented him from living at home.
He also faced another challenge: extreme food selectivity. Jackie Turner, Assistant Director for Melmark’s Children’s Residential Program, worked as his Residential Teacher when he arrived. “Wilfredo refused to eat anything except pizza, white bread and butter, chicken nuggets and cookies,” said Turner. But this limited menu was not his biggest challenge.
“For the first few years, Wilfredo never left Melmark’s campus,” said Turner. “He was afraid of vans, so we had to work to help him overcome that fear.” Melmark staff implemented a shaping procedure to help him become more comfortable around vans. “At first, we just had him stand by the van for a couple of minutes. Then, when he was comfortable with that, we would have him stand on the step to the van. Eventually, he learned he was safe sitting in the seat of a car or van.”
A full year later, Wilfredo took his first van ride to his family’s house in Northern New Jersey. That was four years after he had left home. Wilfredo’s mother says it’s a day she will never forget. “It was incredible to have our son home, together with his grandmother, sister, father and me.” Last Christmas Eve, Wilfredo stayed overnight with his family with no Melmark staff present. His mom says it seemed too good to be true. “His father and I walked into the room so many times that night, just to make sure it was real, that our son was really sleeping in his bed at home. The feeling was so amazing when we all woke up to Christmas morning together.”
Adapting the shaping protocol that was successful for his van rides, Wilfredo’s staff encouraged him to gradually taste new foods. By 2006, he was eating everything on his plate.
Besides taking van trips and eating a more balanced diet, Wilfredo has made remarkable progress in the classroom and at home. He now resides in one of Melmark’s community homes. Lisa Latoche, a Senior Program Manager for the Melmark Children’s Residential Program, works with Wilfredo daily. “He has not engaged in any form of aggression in nearly a year, which is a huge turnaround from when he came to Melmark,” said Latoche. “Wilfredo works hard to reach his community goals and even uses his own debit card to buy movie tickets online.” A teary eyed Latoche went on to say, “we are so proud of his accomplishments.”
Jackie Turner credits Wilfredo as being a big reason she continues along the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) career path. “The day I took him home to his family for the first time in over four years was one of the most amazing memories I have. To see this family sit down together; it was all they had wanted since the day he left home. Nothing could ever feel better than knowing you helped make that happen for such a wonderful family, and to see the fantastic young man Wilfredo has become, it makes me cry every time I think about it.”
Wilfredo’s mom says she has only one way to describe the staff at Melmark: “The people who have worked with Wilfredo, they are my angels. They have changed my son’s life and my family’s.”
Wilfredo, now age 21, graduates from The Melmark School on Friday, June 14th. After graduation, Wilfredo will transition into an adult program, where staff will continue to help him build daily living skills so he can live as independent a life as possible.
Melmark is a not-for-profit provider of residential, educational, vocational and therapeutic programs for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, brain injuries, other neurological and genetic disorders and related challenging behaviors.
The Melmark School serves children from the ages of 5 to 21. Teachers and other classroom staff are highly trained in the applications of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Students receive individualized programs that meet each child’s specific needs. Collaboration with the family encourages a 24/7 learning model, which provides the best results possible. Melmark is known as a Center of Excellence in its field.
Located on 80 beautiful acres in Berwyn, PA, The Melmark Community includes an indoor and outdoor pool, a full horseback riding arena, nature trails and fully accessible playgrounds. Melmark also has a location and school in Andover, Massachusetts.
All of Melmark’s programs and services are offered in an environment of warmth, care and respect.