June 12, 2023

Summit employee comes full circle with former student

Gretchen Abdulla can’t help but smile when she talks about James, a student she worked with when he was 4 and who she is now working with again at the age of 29.

“It’s amazing. I was able to see him from the start and witness all the years in his growth,” she said.

Gretchen is a supervising clinician in the behavior support department at The Summit Center. She began working with James when he was 4 years old. When he first came to Summit, James had difficulty communicating and engaged in some challenging behaviors.

“Throughout the years, James had a behavior plan. We worked on the communication piece and developing adaptive skills,” Gretchen said. “His mom was very supportive. She was a big advocate for him.”

James progressed as he went through Summit Academy, and he eventually gave the commencement speech at graduation. Now as an adult, James participates in community habilitation services, and Gretchen is once again assisting him.

Together, they work on community engagement, manners, how to advocate for himself, and more. Gretchen said James loves technology and researching things on his computer. He will take photos of objects in the community that grab his interest and later research them.


“He teaches me something every day,” Gretchen said. “He’s grown so much over the years. He’s very sweet and polite. He holds doors open for strangers, says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, helps out with chores around the house.”

James’ mother said, “Ms. Gretchen and Summit never gave up on my son, James. The staff at Summit weren’t just there to help James, but they were there for me too. I’m forever grateful for the man James is today. Thank you, Summit.”