I know how you feel.”
When our founders, Marcus and Diliana Henry, say this to parents, it comes from a genuine place of compassion. Raising a child with autism has gifted them with well-earned knowledge and perspective, which they now give generously to others.
Their story began when their son Alex was about 9-12 months old. He’d met all his developmental milestones up to that point, but seemed to be struggling with communication. He wasn’t responding to his name, making baby-talk, or saying his first words.
Diliana realized later there were earlier signs, but at the time she didn’t know what to look for. “He was fascinated with the wheels of a train; sometimes, he’d play with a string for hours.”
Their pediatrician recommended an early intervention program designed to enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities or delays. However, at 18 months, Alex was withdrawing even more. He would lie on the floor, disconnecting completely from his surroundings.
Marcus and Diliana sought more answers. But even after seeing a diagnostician specializing in autism and developmental delays, the doctor wasn’t ready to make a diagnosis. Their family journey started ten years ago, when diagnostic tools weren’t as refined as they are now.
Diliana said she felt lost, overwhelmed, and lonely. She says, “On the one hand, you want the help. But on the other hand, you’re still in denial. You think, no one knows my child better than I do.”
Alex was three years old when he finally received the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). By then, he was exhibiting severe behavioral challenges, like aggression and self-harm, that limited his socialization and learning.
Among the many mainstream and alternative interventions, parents and professionals in the field unanimously recommended applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. However, at the time, Delaware didn’t offer center-based programming where Alex could get the intensive treatment he needed.
Undeterred, Marcus and Diliana decided to open an ABA center in their community of Wilmington. The first location of what was then known as Brandywine Center for Autism opened its doors in the fall of 2014. Now with four primary service areas, the impact of BrightBloom is stretching across Delaware and beyond.
The results of ABA treatment and the impact on their home life has been just as remarkable. Alex is thriving in middle school and is learning to read in an autistic classroom. The Henry’s older daughter, Gabby has also benefited, gaining an openness to differences. Diliana says, “Our family is happy. And that’s what we want for our clients. A harmonious home life.”
Most importantly, the Henry family found the experience has imbued them with a sense of purpose. They want to share a simple message of hope with parents:
You’re not alone, and we can help.”