The Moorachian Family | Massachusetts | Elise Meader Photography

This beautiful Spectrum Inspired session was documents by the incredible Elise Meader Photography. 

Luke, age 8  

"Luke is full of love. He gives love to all, including strangers and is a mostly happy child." 

Words from Luke's mother Rose, 

"Luke is our first born. The first grandchild. Our pride and joy. He is a very loving child, that shares his love to everyone he encounters. He is very smart and curious about how things work and the world around him. He loves music and hums tunes under his breath all the time. He has just learned to ride his bike without training wheels and loves to climb and is a master of the monkey bars.

I took him to the playground often as a toddler, with his infant sister, and saw him interacting with other kids but without a lot of words. He started preschool at 2.5 years and during one of his parent teacher conferences the teachers told us that his behavior and lack of social language development raised some flags. We started testing right away and by his 3rd birthday he was enrolled in an integrated classroom with ABA curriculum with a diagnosis of ASD, PDD-NOS. He had as part of his IEP, speech, OT and PT services. It was a lot to take in all at once. The school psychologist broke the news to us in her quiet office. My husband wept, I had my questions answered. I knew something was different about Luke but could not put my finger on it. We now had a new path in life and I felt empowered with this new information.

Luke improved significantly in preschool, and in kindergarten. As he got older, new challenges came about, with new additional diagnosis of ADHD, Anxiety and OCD. Luke showed stress and behaviors when things didn't go his way. He needed structure and order, his way. Somehow, some way his fantastic teachers were able to get through to him and he managed to learn and stay on par with the rest of the students in school. To supplement his IEP we enrolled him in a social group once a week outside of school. He did great there too.

All the while we saw a Neurologist at the Lurie Center for Autism, with Mass Gen Hospital. She prescribed medicine to help him regulate his behaviors and impulses. That was also a juggling act to make sure he was in balance and not over or under medicated.  

Luke has grown up surrounded by his extended family. My sister and our family shared a 2 family home in Watertown, MA. She lived upstairs and we lived downstairs. Luke had his Aunty Lucy visiting all the time, as well as Grandma ("Titi") and Grandpa who lived only a mile away. Our house was always filled with loved. We however were outgrowing our little 2-bedroom apartment and started looking for a new home. We found our forever dream home in Natick, MA and moved here in June. I did my best to make the transition as smooth as possible for Luke and Faye. The kids were registered in school right away and the school was provided with Luke’s IEP from Watertown. They were able to visit their new teachers before school got out for the summer. The kids right away loved their new bedrooms. They didn't have to share a room any more. They love the big yard and the playroom that is all theirs.  

The summer proved to be challenging because their summer programs were still in Watertown and we had to commute back and forth each day. Luke spent the first half of the summer at the social group and did very well. Faye spent her summer at the Watertown Recreation Department camp and Luke joined her for the last 2 weeks after his other programming was done. That turned out to be the worst decision I made for my son. At the recreation department camp, Luke had no support. There he learned that he was different from the other kids. Not having aids to assist him made his differences come to light for him and the others around him. Until now we have not told Luke about his diagnosis. When we have tried, but he didn't understand. To hear him verbalize his displeasure with himself, "Mommy I don't like myself. I’ve become a monster," devastated me. However, despite those feelings I was proud of him for becoming self-aware and being able to articulate his feelings. Needless to say he did not finish his 2 weeks at that camp.

We finished the summer at Sesame Place, in PA. For the last 4 years we have had our family vacation there. The kids enjoy the water rides and the other amusement rides. It truly is a week of fun to forget about reality. At Sesame Place they have a great program to accommodate special needs children. Luke has line privileges that helps him stay focused and enjoy the ride. His sensory needs are all met. He loves the rush and speed of the roller coaster. He loves the deep pressure of the giant bucket of water crashing on top of his head – and the list goes on. To see the pure bliss on his face is intoxicating! He is in his happy place, which makes us all happy.

We started school a few days before Labor Day weekend. Since it was a new town for us, new school, we were nervous about the start. My husband and I were concerned for Luke and Faye, hoping that they would settle in quickly. That came to a screeching halt. We learned right away that the school we registered at could not accommodate Luke’s needs, in spite of the fact that Luke’s IEP had been provided in June. Our neighborhood school did not offer the specific special education staff required to implement his IEP. Emergency team meetings took place right away and we had to move Luke to a different school in the district that has in-house special education services. So yet again Luke and Faye had to add another major transition to their overloaded past few months.

Luke has had a very difficult transition to this new school. He doesn’t know anyone, and they don’t know him. He refuses to do any work. He is angry and aggressive all the time. This is not the loving angel I know my son to be. I went to a parent night in mid-September to find nothing hanging on the walls with Luke’s name. His notebooks in his desk were all blank. I looked at other parents showing off their children’s work. I had nothing to look at. I did my best to keep it together and finally lost it in the privacy of my car.  

After some medication adjustments and moving Luke out of the integrated class and into the special ed classroom exclusively, we are just now starting to see some improvement. We are working with the school staff to find solutions to get him to enjoy himself and participate in school. We continue to be hopeful….

It has been a trying few months here in Natick, with ups and downs, just like the roller coaster that Luke loves. When he has a good day, we all have a good day. When he’s hurting, we all hurt. We do our best, we keep trying. We continue to be hopeful."

Sarah Driscoll