May 22, 2023

Aaron and Alijah’s Story

Nearly 20 years ago, the Morris family’s 3-year-old sons Aaron and Alijah started receiving services from The Summit Center.

“They started in 2005 with early intervention services and speech and occupational therapy in the home, because we were on a waiting list to get in the preschool,” said Yolanda Morris, Aaron and Alijah’s mother.

The family moved from Albany to Western New York and began searching for schools that practiced applied behavioral analysis (ABA). They learned more about Summit’s programs after meeting CEO Stephen Anderson and decided to enroll their sons shortly afterward.

Once Aaron and Alijah started preschool, they were given different goals. Although Alijah had some behavioral and social challenges at that time, he began preparing to transition to the public school district.

“The goal was to get him set to be able to go to kindergarten in the school district,” Yolanda said. “Summit really helped give him that structure to be in a classroom setting, pay attention to a teacher, follow instructions. Those developmental years were crucial.”

While Alijah received additional services, he attended school in the Williamsville School District until he graduated. He is now in his third year at Villa Maria College.

As a child, Aaron was classified as nonverbal. He grew up attending Summit Academy and will be graduating this year in June. Yolanda said his nonverbal diagnosis, Aaron has increased his vocabulary over the years.

“He can identify family members or people who are close to us. He asks for grandma and grandpa all the time,” she said. “He’s learned proper greetings, how to say ‘hello’ to people.”

She describes Aaron as a very friendly, happy, people person. He loves being around family, friends, and other peers.

“Aaron’s inquisitive. He’s intrigued by certain things. He likes to take things apart, look at each piece, and see why it’s apart,” Yolanda shared.

During his time at Summit, Aaron has learned how to wait and proper etiquette when interacting with other people. He has also learned to do basic chores and can follow two or three-step instructions, such as putting laundry away or cleaning up.

Yolanda has learned a lot too, especially how to advocate for Aaron and to reinforce what he has learned. She said the collaborative nature of Summit’s staff has been helpful throughout Aaron’s education.

“I always appreciated that Summit staff, no matter who he dealt with, understood who he was, why he was doing the things he did, and helped him through it,” Yolanda said. “I will never take for granted that he’s been in a safe, secure environment that has taught him so well.”