Declan is a 14-year-old student at our special education school for children and adolescents with brain injury. As he has learned to manage the debilitating effects of an inoperable brain tumor that resulted in a brain injury, Declan has made a profound impact on all those around him.
Life hasn’t been easy for this very active, strong-minded teen who was a precocious 4-year-old when his family first noticed that something was wrong. By the time his brain tumor was diagnosed, Declan had developed severe behavioral issues, was completely paralyzed on his right side, and had difficulty speaking. Chemotherapy dissolved the brain tumor, but many of his troubling symptoms remained.
“Behaviorally, he was out of control,” remembers his mother Beth. “He could not handle crowds…he would push people over. He needed one-to-one and sometimes two-to-one support. We called him our ‘one-man marching band.’”
After trying several schools and programs, Declan’s family found the May Center for Education and Neurorehabilitation in Brockton, Mass. For Declan, the Center is a “home away from home” filled with classmates who have become friends and supportive staff members who are teaching him vital skills. He has worked hard to deal with the physical, intellectual, and behavioral challenges that came along with his brain injury, and enjoys taking part in typical adolescent experiences at the school, such as community outings, basketball games, and dances.
“Since he’s been there, his behaviors have gotten so much better,” says Beth. “He’s grown in independence. Doctors call him the ‘miracle kid.’”
Although Declan has benefited greatly from the May Center’s therapeutic services, academic instruction, and opportunities to socialize, he has “found his calling” through the school’s volunteer program. He helps deliver Meals on Wheels to elderly shut-ins, and every Friday he volunteers at a soup kitchen in the local community. He also spends time with wheelchair-bound seniors on their bowling outings.
“I find that aspect of the Center’s program fabulous,” says Beth. “It’s not just the ABCs and 123s, but it’s more about the bigger picture — that each of us is very valuable. I think that’s an important lesson for Declan — that he has something to offer the world.”
Writer Bella English of the Boston Globe tells the story of Declan’s struggles and successes and how despite being disabled, Declan is always trying to help others. Read it at boston.com.