Dear Friend,

Diagnosed with autism by age three, Adrianna spent her preschool and early elementary years thriving. Adrianna, who is nonverbal, loved learning and progressed steadily, mastering goal after goal.

But over time, the critical support she was receiving at school diminished—and when she got to fourth grade, her parents started to see a change in their once-happy child.

Imagine the heartbreak, as a parent, of watching your child indicate “sad” on her iPad day after day. Adrianna’s parents feared that on top of the emotional upheaval, she was also in danger of losing all her incredible gains. They knew there was only one place for Adrianna, and that was REED Academy. 

When she was accepted to the school, the whole family felt like they won the lottery. Today, 11-year-old Adrianna is all smiles on weekday mornings, eager to attend class in a caring environment with educators who nurture her abilities so that she can continue to grow and thrive. 

Stories like Adrianna’s are what fuel us here at the REED Foundation for Autism—and that’s why we’re asking for your crucial financial support today.

Seema’s egg carton panoramic X-ray prototype, Terensinho’s styrofoam X-ray machine, Pat’s cardboard X-ray machine.

A registered nurse, Seema regularly works one-on-one with students to prepare for an upcoming trip to the dentist or doctor. For some, this might just be getting familiar with going up and down in the dentist’s chair. Others might receive a mock dental exam with an electric toothbrush while listening to a YouTube video that captures the sounds of drilling, suctioning, and scraping. To give students an idea of what it’s like to have blood drawn or receive a shot, for example, she uses a mock needle.

Familiarizing students with these types of experiences requires creativity, collaboration, and thinking outside the box. For example, Seema also prepares students for tests, such as an EEG, done to monitor seizures and brain activity.

“We took a swim cap and attached mock electrodes with an attached camera bag to wear throughout the day. Some tests require you to wear it for 30-48 hours,” she explained. “We also do the same for an EKG, in which we attach mock electrodes to their chest and have them tolerate it for a certain period of time.”

“One of our students had an appointment for a panoramic dental X-ray, but sitting still for about 30 seconds created a challenge,” said Seema, who created a replica of an X-ray machine using egg cartons. She would practice spinning the device around the student’s head for 30 seconds while they sat still, and the student was successful at their appointment when the time came. Since then, our custodian Terensinho Oliveira and classroom consultant Pat DeFlora got involved and created two more replicas.

This position is truly a calling for Seema, who always wanted to be a school nurse. In fact, she worked as a nurse’s assistant in sixth grade! After working in public health, and then receiving her school nurse’s certificate, she joined the team at REED and hasn’t looked back.

“I love the collaboration and creativity that goes into finding different ways to make it work for the student. But the most important part is seeing them thrive and be healthy,” she said.