167 North Leswing Ave
(201) 289 – 3822
Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities/Learning Difficulties, Schools/Transition, Mental Health
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Trainer: People Planning Together (1 Day Instructor-Led)
On Friday, December 30th, 1988, at 1 a.m., I was born at Pascack Valley Hospital. Weighing 8 lbs., 19 inches long and an abundance of black hair, my parents named me “Ryan Mathew Roy”. When I was two days old, my parents and two year old brother, Reji, brought me to our apartment in Fort Lee. This apartment was the setting for the first seven years of my life.
According to my parents, I was a beautiful baby, who developed normally, based on the Normal Developmental Milestones, except for my speech. My parents were concerned that I was not as loquacious or talkative as my brother when he was the same age. With worry, they questioned my Pediatrician. He said, “Don’t worry, everything should be fine, occasionally some kids take time to develop speech.” However, my mother wasn’t satisfied with that answer, so, both of my parents searched for a second opinion. Actually, many second opinions.
They took me to multiple Doctors, Neurologists, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Speech Therapists, as well as performing, Multiple Diagnostic Procedures, Brain Stem Scanning, MRI of the Brain, Blood & Hearing Tests. Through all these examinations, multiple suggestions were made but, there were no conclusive results, so, my parents continued their search for the answer to my lack of speech. I began Speech Therapy at Bergen Pines Medical Center (Before it was Bergen Regional) in Paramus with my mother, to learn Sign Language. After 3 months, they realized that I was not a candidate for Sign Language.
Then, my parents took me to an E.N.T. (Ear, Nose & Throat) Specialist, the doctor who examined me and said, “Your son has the mechanism to talk”. My mother cried and prayed to God for a miracle. At 2 A.M, the next Morning, my aunt, Saly Kurian-Koller, called to tell my mother that she had a dream. She said, “If you take Ryan to France, to see the Blessed Mother in Our Lady of Lourdes and pray, he’s going to talk.” Through the inspiring words of my Aunt, my mother was convinced and arranged the trip. My father took Reji and I to Austria, although my mother wanted to accompany us, she could not, because of an impending Nursing Exam at her school.
My Aunt, Father, Reji, and I went to France, to pray to the Blessed Mother. During the train ride, I became very sick, my father struggled, to take care of Reji & me. I vaguely remember that my father was crying and praying for me, as we made it to Our Lady of Lourdes and after that, I started to speak, for the first time. My family knew that I was finally blessed by God with the gift of speech. When I was 3 years old, my parents registered me to the Child Study Team in the Fort Lee School District. After the evaluation, they placed me to Midland School in Paramus. At the time, my parents didn’t know anything about the Special Education System.
After 3 months of going to the school, my parents realized that it was not a good environment for me. All my classmates were bound in wheelchairs, but I could walk and move normally.
This made my parents request an emergency meeting to find a proper placement for me. When they denied this request my parents hired a lawyer to force them to find the right school for me. My father put his foot down and requested for a proper placement to serve my special needs.
My journey continued to the next school, which was in Rochelle Park. In that school, my first teacher, Jan Borda, understood the agony, pain and suffering that my family & I went through. She supported us with her heart; mere words were not enough to convey our gratitude of thanks. She gave me my first computer that helped me so much with school.
Eventually, my mother joined a support group and multiple organizations, such as, COSAC, Span & California for Autism. From these resources, she learned about the Autism Spectrum. When my mother learned about The Eden Institute in Princeton, she asked my uncle, Xavier Kurian, to take us there. After a long day of multiple evaluations, I was diagnosed with PDDNOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, right outside the Umbrella of Autism), which made my mother cry, then, my father consoled her, telling her not to worry about this surprising result.
Continuing this journey, I went to one of the Ridgefield Public Schools, which is Bergen Boulevard School, this school had a principle named Gary Behan. My first day I was climbing on the top of his desk, taking his things & even with the chaos I caused, he accepted me for who I am, by giving me a pat on the head. There, I was getting Discrete Trial Training, this is used in A.B.A. mostly in elementary education to teach the students by assigning them simple tasks and rewarding correct responses, along with my mother, which helped me to develop my communication skills. Training me using Facilitative Communication Skill, which is a process given by an instructor, who supports the hand or arm of an individual, by using a keyboard or other devices to help him or her develop pointing skills and more advanced communication skills. My mother worked tirelessly with me, byusing “Hooked-On-Phonics”. This helped a great deal with my speech.
When I was 4 years old, Reji and I were affected by the Chicken Pox, so, we stayed home from school. We both got better, Reji went to school and I had to stay a few extra days at home. One Day in the Afternoon, my mother got me ready, sat me in the sofa and explained that she is going to get dressed and pick up Reji. While she was getting ready, I jumped out of the window and walked to the school to pick up Reji alone. My poor mother called the Police, crying and searching for me. 17 minutes later, the Police picked me up from Reji’s school, brought me to my mother and one of them said, “It’s a miracle that nothing happened to him.”
After I got better from the Chicken Pox, I went back to school. After graduating Discrete Trial Training, I moved on to the Shaler Academies, my mother continued to monitor my improvement, then, I went to Slocum Skewes. The teachers there that had inspired me were: Christine Kennedy & Michelle Madden. Ms. Madden was very compassionate, nice and caring, she understood my behavior, by accepting and helping me be the best I could be. Multiple times I called her at home, left her messages, even screaming at her on the phone through frustration, still, she tolerated my behavior and helped me through each problem that I went through.
One of my behavior issues was that certain sounds and pictures made me feel scared. So, I used my hands to cover my ears and run away. If I heard a Baby crying, I would cover the Baby’s mouth. Multiple times, my mother had to apologize for my actions. At that time, she learned about “Auditorial Training”, that can improve my behavior, so, my mother and her co-worker, Dorothy Jones, took me to Brooklyn, NY, to evaluate me for the training.
After my evaluation, they recommended that I’m not a candidate for that type of training. I was also in Gymnastics to improve my muscle tone, then, my mother learned about Social Interaction, at Care One, in Fair Lawn. While I was there, getting trained, my mother was in a different class, with other parents, learning and sharing about Behavior Disorders. In Slocum Skewes, along with social interaction skills, I was getting Occupational, Physical and Speech therapy also, my mother enrolled me in Music Therapy, at Bergen Community College in Paramus.
My mother shared her struggle with her siblings, so, Annamma Kurian-D’Cunja and her husband, Alphonse, invited me to Switzerland for a month. There, I had so many experiences, including therapies, going to multiple churches & praying. I felt that much of my success is dedicated to praying, without God, I would never have been able to reach the point in my life that I am at now.
Moving along, my mother learned about the Inclusion Programs. I said good-bye to the staff and friends at Ridgefield, to go to one of the Public Schools at Saddle Brook. We bought a house and around that time, my little brother, Max, was born. There, I went to Helen I. Smith School, my teacher, Cathy Sutera, understood of my Special Needs, supported and helped me, but some of the students in the classes did not. I was getting bullied and had a lot of hardships, but I did have a group of friends who had supported and helped me through my battles, especially two of my important friends, still, they give me the courage to go through the obstacles in my life: Vincent Pelli & Cecilia Cirello. Through these trials, I grew & matured.
In the following year, when I was in 5th grade, the teacher in Special Ed didn’t understand my specific needs. My mother fought and went through the battles with the Saddle Brook School District, so, finally, I moved to Bergen Center in Haworth. During that time, I was getting support from my neighbors, librarians and the Church. Through my life, I had painful experiences from some people, who were uncaring and did cruel things to me. For an example, I was being pushed off of my bike by my neighbor and got severely bruised, also, I had to deal with a sadistic, cold, cruel-hearted & psychopathic bully. He made fun of my disability, which made me feel very angry, I even wanted to get revenge. I told this to my mother, then, she told me that revenge will not help me to succeed in life, instead, it would get me into trouble and I would be placed in a cold-padded cell, where my bed is right next to the toilet. When being convinced by my mother, I told this to my late neighbor named Debra Daviou, she solved my problem, once & for all, by confronting my bully.
I went through many more programs, but had a hard time finding a good placement. I had a bad experience in Bergen Center, my mother was attempting to join me in The Forum School, I was crying, from being nervous, that led up to me feeling anxiety during the intake. My anxiety caused me to fail my intake and I was rejected.
After this, I waited patiently for the following year. I was finally accepted there, continued my education and tried to improve. I graduated Physical Therapy at Bergen Center, thus, continuing on with Occupational & Speech Therapy. At that time, my mother learned about Applied Behavior Analysis: It is a scientific approach to understanding behavior. So, my mother started me on Behavior Therapy, then, Reji helped me to accomplish some of the goals. By graduating The Forum School, along with Occupational Therapy, they recommended me to go to Bergen Tech, in Paramus. As a freshman, I had a painful, traumatizing experience. The Speech teacher was not empathetic of my feelings. At first, I told my mother about the situation, who began to investigate the School District. She read my progress report from the teachers that I was doing well, except for Speech. Then, my mother told me to ignore the Speech Teacher and continue school. I couldn’t handle it on my own, so, I reached out to my Case Manager, but received no help. So, I decided to work out at a gym to release my frustration. Also, I decided to talk to my counselor. During my session, I expressed my feelings to the counselor about the situation, hoping that she would help me. I explained to her, that part of me fantasized about having Superman’s strength to lash out at her. Of course, it was just thinking, no intention whatsoever to proceed any wrongful doing, we all think about it at times, but never proceed, which they didn’t seem to understand and I was suspended for 5 weeks. It didn’t make sense to me because I thought they would understand that I never planned on doing what I said I would do. That experience made me regress and I lost trust in the Professionals. To give them the proof, I went for a Psychiatric Evaluation, which showed that I was harmless. My family fought for me to have a second chance to proceed with my education, they finally accepted me back, but didn’t support or cooperate with me. This led me to be miserable, because I had all these conflicts standing in my way. Aside from all of that, Debra Daviou, who was a counselor at the time, supported me tremendously throughout my battles. We all realized that Bergen Tech was the wrong placement.
My family had suffered a great deal at Bergen Tech, so, my mother had decided to take me to Robert Wood Johnson in Piscataway for a Psychiatric Evaluation through Dr. Sheri Novotny, they prescribed me a medication, they told me that it was for my heart, but then, I realized that I was tricked by my mother and it was for behavior, this made me feel so angry that I refused to take it. I made a promise to myself that I would learn to control my behavior through perseverance, without the use of the behavior medication, the only Doctor of who will help me through the chains & ropes is God.
In April 2006, I started my Ridgefield Memorial High School journey. There were many students and staff that I remember from that day, they were so happy to see me, with all smiles on their faces.
When I started at RMHS, I was a sophomore in the Asperger Program, along with mainstreaming the Regular Ed classes, while being there, the teacher had assigned me Morning Packets, to test my knowledge to answer the questions and understand the problems. I had no time to do this, since I had to be focused on my Mainstream classes. I also realized that I was also prejudiced against people in my own situation, by avoiding those who had disabilities and special needs. I didn’t want to be labeled as being “different”, instead, I wanted to be accepted by the general spectrum. I was struggling to survive the harsh reality of being at a High School, I was inspired by Eminem, a famous rapper, who went through a lot of adversity. He often uses his talents by expressing his feelings of what he has to go through, with the words based on the lyrics of his songs, “Lose Yourself”, from the movie, “8 Mile”, “Look, if you had One Shot or One Opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, One Moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?” I want to capture it.
I thought, “Will I lose this opportunity to stand for what I believe in and be brave enough to be myself or will I give up?” I realized I should continue on fighting to what I believe in, instead of giving up. During my 2nd year of being a Junior, I was given the opportunity to be the “Water boy” for the Ridgefield Royals Football Team, which built up my mental strength to survive through any obstacles that stand in my way. Along with serving water to the Football players and being the Spirit-Leader, I sang for The High School Chorus, along with their “Men’s Choir”, we went to amazing trips such as Dorney Park, Virginia, Washington, D.C. & Medieval Times, along with my mother, too. Being at RMHS had brought me a Celebrity fame status through the populace of the Regular & Special Ed Environment. I won respect from the staff, students and the town, Ridgefield, itself. On Thursday, June 25th, 2009, I graduated from the High School and went on to a Vocational Rehabilitation at JFK Medical Center in Edison. They put me through each job in the Department and 3 of them were Clerical. They also taught me how to be independent. This wasn’t enough, since however, I only had a limited of time there, but at least, I had found my true calling to know the skills that I have the capability of doing. After maxing out of the program at age 21, my mom and I were invited to participate in a program regarding of the State Budget that is part of life after age 21, I had a bad feeling about using the plan, because I felt that the DDD (Division of Developmental Disabilities) did not understand my specific needs. This made me feel very angry, hurt and upset, I stormed out of the building to get fresh air. I felt like I was being held prisoner by a system that defines me by a label. That made me decide to refuse to use the State Budget, thereby, denying my rights as a citizen with disabilities.
So, I went to take a 4 month course at East wick College in Hackensack, to study my major in CCA (Computer Concepts & Applications). After that, I was assigned to go to “The Friendship House”, which is in the same town as where my college was. They wanted to see if I can get my skills to be trained at a certain level, in order to go for a clerical position. But then, the lady in charge of the intake had criticized me saying that I have a socialization problem, apparently, she didn’t even pay attention to what I am capable of. Then, the system had wanted to put me in a place that was too far away for me to go, “The Jespy House” in West Orange. I refused for a specific reason, because it has a lot of criminals occupying the area, which made me feel afraid and scared, in addition to struggling to get transportation. So, I decided to go for job-hunting on my own, but my mother tried to make me cooperate with the system, I declined. I felt that since the system seems to have no regard for my wishes, I would rather venture out on my own.
After 4 months of trying to look for employment and with no luck, I actually decided to give the system a 2nd chance and use them to my advantage. I called my agent, Cuthbert E. Ashby, from Neighbors, Inc., to help me out, since I was so desperate to do something! He felt my pain for what I have been through, then, he referred me to the Adult Autism Program right in Rockleigh. When I went there for my intake, my face was all smiles and I began to feel accepted there, I had an intelligent conversation with the Program Coordinator, Ms. Amanda Hueting and half of the Staff. They were so interested in knowing about me, which made me have interest in going there. I was given the impression that I will start the following week. But apparently, the Budget hadn’t been approved. Which made me have to wait in hoping of when I will start the program, to give me a lot of confidence, but then, nothing happened.
I called the Program Coordinator to give me advice in what to do, she told me to call the system in setting me up, not only her, but my agent said the thing, too. I called a Monitor, Glenn Molyneaux, from the system, to talk business, to arrange for me to start the program, I was angry, but proud that I didn’t take it too far, since I did it in a diplomatic, rational way, to get for what is my right. So, he took it seriously into consideration and I got into the program immediately.
Now, I am definitely enjoying the program, since my mother backed off from making the choices for me, because she wants me to be independent the best way I can be, before she passes on, when she witnessed me doing it without her help. One day, my Social Worker stopped by, I wasn’t really happy, since I felt like she never cared about how I feel and what I am going through. I turned my back to avoid her presence, which led me to being afraid and choked up of not finding the right words to say. The reason why was, I tried to express my situation & feelings about of what I am going through in my life when I turned 21. She said that it was hard for her to explain the details, so, she asked me to talk to my mother. She made me feel belittled, rejected and powerless of not being able to deal with this matter myself. I wanted her to tell the state in how I felt, but she was too busy with all of her other work.
I realized that I went too far by being quick with my anger, since I didn’t pay any attention to what it would be like in her shoes, I then realized that I her in a world of hurt and was made her very upset, I should have backed up and think out my actions before doing them. I had every right to be angry, but I needed to remember to see things from other people’s points of view or another perspective.
I am trying to advocate for myself, when it comes to dealing with the challenges that are hard in the road, I have been taught since the age of 12, by my mother, rehearsing it in the bedroom many times, to get the right words to say in regarding goals & objectives to my specific needs in the I.E.P. (Individualized Educated Plan) meeting, that I need to accomplish in practical life. Not only me, but I am going to help the other people diagnosed with the Autism Spectrum to stand up for what is their right, this is the change to make the difference when it comes to Bureaucracy. Since the system should start understanding about the individual’s feelings, needs and their own disabilities, to hear and help them out as they face adversity, instead of leaving us aside. The system should understand each person’s specific needs and work with them to have a life for what they want for themselves. I’ve learned how to be empathetic towards others by understanding how they feel, handling a Constructive Criticism when given for me to understand from right to wrong and knowing how to depend on myself when dealing with different situations. I was once giving People “A Run For The Money” getting away with murder being in the spotlight, as in “Center of Attention”, now, I am more of a better person all thanks to my Family, Friends and those who made me feel influenced in my life to be in the right path to success.
I am going to give an advice to the Educators, Parents and Individuals with Autism, don’t be depressed that you’re diagnosed with the Disorder. It takes a lot of courage to accept the challenges, but try your level best to raise them the best way you can by giving your love & support for them to succeed in their life.
You want to know how I had the will to carry on with success? Like Danny Elfman, when he used to be a front-man in the 80’s Rock & Roll Band, “Oingo Boingo”, along with composing music for Tim Burton’s movies, he used adrenaline, it’s not addictive, it won’t kill you and it’s free. Mohandas Gandhi, when his own race had their freedom taken away, he fasted for days, fought the battle and declared India’s Independence from the British by using perseverance. Martin Luther King, Jr. battled the segregation between the blacks and whites. I do it with my stability, even if things bring me down, get in my way or make me feel pressured, I usually go for walks, pray, listen to music, go on the computer, exercise & squeeze the stress ball. This is how I find peace, harmony & tranquility, by having stability, my mother repeatedly & encouraged me to do that, in order to move on in life. My father told me that I have the mighty strength of a Lion, whose fearless, bold & courageous in picking his battles for the right reasons. I am dedicating this to my grandfather, Ouseph Kurian, Sr., may his soul find peace in Heaven, for bequeathing me the gift of perseverance and to always strive for greatness.
People with Disabilities