The Benitez Family, CNUSD

God sent an ally…

It was March of 2008 when my husband and I first met Ms. Valerie Aprahamian. The woman’s exterior facade was businesslike, intelligent and very professional but underneath this demeanor laid a crusader, an advocate of the rights of the unheard and under privileged special needs children. Above all, simply a fellow mother who is experiencing her life’s journey, same as mine, same as yours.

My son Matthew was 3 1/2 years old when he was first diagnosed with mild autism. My husband and I were like zombies, numb struck of the unknown, uncertain of what lies ahead, totally gaping in grief and grasping at how to survive the many demands of rearing a child with such a disability. We waited for our precious son to come into our lives for 13 years with full joy and expectation, only to be devastated by this dreadful condition.

When Valerie was referred to us by one of the Moms whom I met at one of those support group meetings, all of the answers to our problems and needed help were supplied through her. She was truly a godsend to our son Matthew. Valerie interceded on Matthew’s behalf, fiercely battled with quiet determination and resolved to fight for his rights with resilient persistence toward the many obstacles and challenges we faced along the way.

It was never an easy journey for us, yet Valerie taught us to be patient and encouraged us to trust and believe that our school system would not fail us. She never wavered in her faith that our son would receive the necessary home and school services and eventually would improve in his condition and reestablish the promising life and future we once envisioned for our little boy.

Since then, my son’s life has taken so many twists and turns of unbelievable and remarkable improvement. The little boy who once had a severe speech delay, who cried at the highest decibels in all places night and day, who never exchanged interaction or befriended any relationship with boys of his own age, who once belonged only in his own world of stemming and academic delays, is now a vibrant 8-year-old who has learned how to have appropriate behavior, age level academic achievement and functional speech ability. My husband and I can proudly say Matthew has found hope through the greatest help of Ms. Valerie.

Matthew is now a third grader who attends 3 regular education classes in Math, Social Studies and Science with the help of a teacher’s aide. Our hope is that he will be fully included in all general education classes by next year. He now talks and conveys his messages clearly, plays with his peers and participates in class discussions. Matthew is the smartest in his special day class and recently received outstanding grades on his report card. He also received awards such as “Student of the Month” and “Most Improved in Behavior” to name a few. We are so proud of his many achievements yet we have to give credit where credit is due.

We could have not done it without Ms. Valerie. She has truly answered our life crisis regarding our son Matthew. We still have a long journey to tackle but it is easier navigating around the many obstacles now because we know that Valerie is still in it for the long haul with us!

Thank you Ms. Valerie for the love, guidance, and help you have given us to bring back a hopeful future for our son.

Thank you for making a difference in the lives of the many special children you serve. You are an institution by birthright and continue to answer your fervent call to assist special needs families by living your purposeful life to the best of your heart’s desire. You are a success and a blessing to us and may you continue to keep fulfilling your compassionate and great mission in the lives of many families with a special needs child.

The Benitez Family, CNUSD