The Full Story
Michael, our miracle son, was premature, slow in development, underweight and height challenged. These issues were exacerbated by Michael's difficulty with speaking progression. Cause for concern peaked when no early development specialist, and we saw many, had any success in working with him or shedding any light on this life-altering issue. While Michael communicated freely by gesticulations, facial gestures, and head movements he spoke few words and experienced limited to no speech progress. My wife was relentless in her quest to do whatever possible to prove the medical specialists wrong and to find someone who could help.
After several unsuccessful meetings with specialists, our pediatrician, the parent of a special needs child, suggested that we explore the Early Intervention Program at St. John of God Community Services. Despite my hesitancy, my wife was persistent and scheduled the Early Intervention Evaluation. Afterwards, a Service Coordinator for EI visited with us. After discussing the results of the evaluation with the Early Intervention Team, my wife was eager to obtain the help. Although grateful and optimistic, I remained a skeptic. How could this woman assure me that SJOGCS could address Michael’s issues when so many specialists were befuddled? Thankfully my wife won.
Following that meeting, we were introduced to the Occupational Therapist assigned to help Michael. Admittedly I was not sold on this first visit, and resigned myself to believing that even this organization could not fill the void that baffled numerous specialists. A variety of exercises, which included sign language tutorials, were deployed. I remained skeptical. My wife, however, saw something which conflicted with my inner "doubting Thomas". At my wife’s insistence, the Occupational Therapist, continued to work with Michael. The transition was nothing short of miraculous. In a period of great patience and understanding, she had Michael participating in a variety of speech exercises. Her patience and demeanor rivaled that of the Prophet Job. The “doubting Thomas” in me transformed into one who genuflects at the mere mention of SJOGCS Early Intervention program.
Today Michael is a 14-year-old active boy who has such a bright future. He is articulate, wields an amazing vocabulary and speaks with great clarity and elocution. Michael also is a third-degree blackbelt; the owner and manager of 2 microbusiness; gainfully trades cryptocurrencies; is a computer whiz; writes computer code; is an animal rights activist; and among many other things has provided the honor of my life. He is my personal gift from God. His work ethic and social interaction stand out from so many others his age, and he has great hopes and dreams. It seems like yesterday when the representatives of SJOGCS were sitting with us conveying the benefits that they could provide to Michael. That was 12 years ago. But for the help of St John of God Community Services Early Intervention program, the dear Lord, and my wife, I may have written a different story.
Mark Serock is one of many young adults that are a critical part of the Fulfillment Center here at St John of God Community Services. Our Fulfillment Center is an adult job training program that provides part-time employment for those with mental, physical or cognitive disabilities, where these individuals can take pride in accomplishments and develop marketable skills through simple jobs, such as packaging retail items or finishing print shop orders, for example. Mark is a 1999 Graduate of Haddon Twp High School and lives in Westmont, NJ. He and his family are faithful parishioners at St Joseph the Worker Parish in Haddonfield. When Mark first visited our campus, he spoke candidly with Brother Thomas Osorio, now our Executive Director, and told him he was looking for a “welcoming and stress-free environment” where his skills and talents, his “presence”, would be valued. Mark clearly found all this and more, as he’s been with St John of God now since December 2003. Jim Serock, Mark’s father, an Air Force veteran and retired USPS worker, and mother Rosemary, a Nurse Practitioner with Jefferson Hospital, shared that “what matters most to us is that Mark has found a loving and supportive environment, a safe haven, that he looks forward to going to every day.” Your charitable donations to St John of God Community Services will positively impact the program that Mark participates in, as well as our Adult Daycare, and Pastoral Care services. Sustaining donations of any amount on an ongoing monthly basis, memorial gifts, and planned giving are all helpful ways for you to support our mission here at St John of God Community Services. Your donations are needed now more than ever.
Everything about Graham’s infancy was “normal” until he was almost 3 months old. At that point, we learned he had microcephaly and visual impairment. We sought early intervention services by recommendation of our pediatrician, and Graham began receiving services at 5 months old. Graham’s early intervention therapists and team have been with us on his arduous journey to diagnose, including the day we learned that he has a rare neurokinetic disorder that causes global developmental delay and a myriad of medical complexities, such as epilepsy. Graham’s genetic disorder, called CASK gene mutation, causes severe developmental delays. Many children do not walk, talk, or have a proficient use of their hands. It was a devastating diagnosis to receive and we were so worried for his future based on what the research about CASK stated. Early Intervention has, undoubtedly, helped Graham exceed any and all expectations about his development. While he is still delayed in all areas, he continues to make amazing progress with the help of his many therapists. Graham receives physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and developmental intervention through EI. His therapists have become like family to us. They not only provide us with the tools we need to help advance Graham’s development, but offer emotional support, guidance, and education when we need it. When the COVID –19 pandemic started and therapy services transitioned to teletherapy, we were worried that the sudden change and lack of in-person services would stall Graham’s progress. However, Graham continues to make progress in all areas thanks to his therapists’ creative ways to engage him. We cannot thank Early Intervention enough for their tremendous role in our family’s life!