Y.A.L.E. School News & Events

Small Changes, Big Success for Student at Y.A.L.E. Audubon Autism Program

Y.A.L.E. Audubon student DannySometimes, seemingly small changes can mean big improvements in the lives of a student with autism. For 18-year-old Daniel Moynahan, a student at Y.A.L.E.’s Audubon campus, these successes can be measured in nearly all aspects of his learning. With encouragement from staff and peers, along with his own dogged determination, Daniel is meeting—and surpassing—many of the goals set for him.

According to his teacher, Emily Hughes, Danny has learned to be more academically focused. “It used to take him more than 45 minutes to finish a worksheet. Now he can do it in under five,” said Hughes. A wiz in social studies and local geography, Danny can locate almost any New Jersey town on a map.

Y.A.L.E. Audubon student Danny talks with a classmateHe has made great strides in math, too. “When he came into my class, Danny was unable to use a calculator,” said Hughes. “Now, he has mastered it, and can use it independently, not only to do work at school but also out in the community.” During weekly trips, Daniel uses his calculator at the Acme and Wal-Mart to add up purchases and determine his amount of change.

Since joining Hughes’ classroom last summer, Danny’s social behavior toward his teachers and classmates has improved dramatically. “Now, he shows respect for the personal space of others, and has really expanded the range of recreational things he will do: He loves to play kickball, and has added computer games, Wii baseball and Uno to his list of favorite things to do with friends,” she said.

But perhaps Danny’s most impressive and life-changing improvement has been in the area of life skills.

It is not uncommon for people with autism to have limited routines, especially when it comes to food.

Y.A.L.E. student Danny poses for the camera“When Danny first came to Y.A.L.E., he would eat only certain things—pudding, cookies—and he had to eat them in a certain order every day,” said Hughes. Now, he is impressing staff and friends with his willingness to try a new variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables and meats. He has also learned how to stand on the lunch line and order school lunch like many of his friends. “He even eats tacos and cheese steak now,” laughed Hughes.

Teaching Daniel to try, tolerate and eventually enjoy these new foods not only helps ensure he gets better nutrition, it prepares him for life in the community.

Danny’s friends, teachers and parents celebrate his accomplishments, and take pride in the gigantic leaps he has made this school year.

Y.A.L.E. Audubon student Danny works on a puzzleY.A.L.E. staff member helps Danny with a puzzleDanny hugs a Y.A.L.E. Audubon staff member

3 Comments

  1. Liz Mancini
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mary and Joe,
    Loved reading Danny’s story… Thanks so much for sharing it with us. Your hearts must swell with pride… and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving couple. Only we who share the world of special children know well the huge excitement at the smallest task mastered. God love you… Big High Five and a cyber-hug coming your way. Go Danny!!!!

  2. Kelly & Kevin Moynahan
    Posted February 29, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing this article. We are very proud of Danny!

  3. Teresa Moynahan
    Posted March 2, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Way to go Danny!!! Thanks for a great article. What a tribute to a strong young man, who has a loving and dedicated family and school supporting him. The sky’s the limit for this guy!