On Thursday, the Saint Mary's Applied Behavior Analysis Center in Alexandria celebrated a milestone of serving children and young adults with intellectual, developmental disabilities and autism.
The ABA has been helping children like 16-year-old Peyton for a decade now. Peyton, a four-year resident has autism and came to Saint Mary's from Walker, Louisiana.
"It's very difficult to leave someone you love in someone else's care and you have to know in your heart that they truly care about the children," said Nora Mckenzie, Peyton's grandmother.
It's a decision she calls a blessing. Peyton, who Mckenzie says was once aggressive has learned communication, social and behavioral skills.
He's able to come home with us and play with his sisters with no aggression...(we're) able to take Peyton out in public, he can sit and take commands.
The complexity of autism makes simple things like spelling a name a treasure in the eyes of people like Mckenzie. Interim administrator Cristi Guillot says Saint Mary's mission is to enrich the lives of their residents and their families.
"Have conversations with their children that they couldn't have before..those are things that we take for granted in our everyday lives but for many people, it's just not a reality so to be able to teach them the skills to live a more normal and fulfilling life is touching to us."
Mckenzie adds when Peyton says "Saint Mary's, Saint Mary's, that's our cue to bring him home."
For more information or to make a donation to Saint Mary's visit www.stmarysalexandria.org or call 318-445-6443