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Armando Feliciano

When Armando Feliciano came to Bancroft, he hardly talked. The seven-year-old had difficulty dressing, eating and using the bathroom without assistance. Frustrated by his autism, he would slam toys and throw himself on the floor crying — once even hurling a play chair through his family’s big-screen TV. But after just seven months in Bancroft’s Elementary Autism Program, the Williamstown boy speaks more than 100 words. He feeds himself, dresses and showers on his own, and uses the toilet by himself. And he never flies into a rage the way he did before. “He’s very independent; he can do phenomenal things,” says Armando’s mother, Barbara Feliciano. “If we hadn’t found [Bancroft], Armando wouldn’t have come as far as he has. I can’t say enough about what they’ve done for him.” Armando is one of many children who’ve blossomed in Bancroft’s Early Education Program. In fact, 35 percent of the program’s students have returned to their home school districts in the past two years. Autism is a neurological disorder that affects about one in every 94 New Jersey children. Symptoms generally include difficulties with communication and social interaction, as well as repetitive behaviors such as twirling or hand-flapping. In Armando’s case, he stopped talking at 18 months, compulsively lined up his toys, and wouldn’t play with other children. “It was like he went deaf,” says Barbara. “He wouldn’t even look at me.” Once diagnosed, Armando received early intervention services until age 3, then attended another special-education school until transferring to Bancroft. “Armando has already met 60 percent of his goals in his Individual Education Plan (IEP),” says Emine, his teacher. “Children normally take a year to meet all of these goals.” Skills that Armando has mastered include identifying 20 new words, counting to 100, completing a 24-piece puzzle, and identifying coins. He can use a computer mouse and keyboard, and read community signs such as “stop” and “exit.” The soft-spoken boy has learned to respond verbally to social questions like “Where do you live?” and “What is your mother’s name?”, and can greet many school staff members by name. Armando also can identify pictures of various human emotions — a difficult task for people with autism. Barbara Feliciano and her husband, Javier, chose Bancroft largely because it offers Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) — the only scientifically proven therapy for children with autism. The Felicianos also like the two-to-one student-teacher ratio, and the staff’s dedication. Bancroft felt like “more of a family...like they genuinely care about the children,” says Barbara, who had looked at three other schools for her son. Looking down the road, Barbara believes her son will be “on his own” one day. “This kid is going to be a success story.”
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