Meet the Patenaude Family
Allison and Stephen Patenaude received their son Nathan’s autism and global developmental delay diagnosis just two days before his sister, Morgan, was born. Nathan was already enrolled in Early Intervention, but when the autism diagnosis came, Allison and Stephen began exploring other options. They first learned about The New England Center for Children through Nathan’s early intervention teacher, which prompted Allison to read about the program online.
“It really boiled down to the research. We knew they would be on the cutting edge of what needs to be done with autism,” Stephen said.
In January 2015, Allison met with admissions staff and was quickly impressed with NECC’s 30 hours per week of intensive home based training. Nathan was 2, but functioning at a 12-month-old level.
“When we started with home-based he couldn’t sit, [he had] a lot of repetitive motions, no eye contact, couldn’t point, lost all of his early toddler skills,”Stephen said. “Julie, our lead NECC therapist, sat on the floor the first day, and he joined her and shape sorted with her.”
As full-time working parents, they found NECC home-based services to be invaluable.
“In the first week he was sitting in a session for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. NECC really gave him those foundational skills back,” Stephen said. “We knew from the first day we made the right choice.”
The Patenaude’s started a support group for families using Early Intervention services. They met monthly to talk about autism and other diagnoses, and discuss how it affects their families’ lives. Once Nathan began using NECC services, they shared their experience and seven families from their group started at NECC. Although Nathan used NECC services for only eight months, the Patenaude’s are strong supporters of NECC.
“We realized quickly how life-changing NECC has been. [It] literally changed our lives for the better, especially Nathan’s life,” Allison said.
They found unique ways to give back. With every real estate transaction Stephen closes through Century 21, he donates a percentage to NECC. They also support NECC’s Annual 5K Walk/Run for Autism with “Team Nate.” “We wanted to raise a little bit of money and awareness so we started a GoFundMe page,” said Allison. “Our goal was five hundred dollars, but we raised over five thousand.” In 2016, they hosted a fundraising night at Night Shift Brewery in Everett. More than 125 people attended, and they raised $12,000.
The Patenaude’s want to help ensure that all kids with autism get the services and education they need.
“Statistics are showing that autism rates are going up so fast that everyone is going to know someone with autism,” said Allison. “It’s something we have to figure out.” It’s this passion and caring that has inspired others to support their fundraising efforts. “We know we will always have NECC in our lives,” she said. “It’s something that’s important to us.”