Updated: Jun 12
“Youssef was at school, we could breathe, he was safe. He is engaged, he is learning. He is happy. Finally, you know, he is happy.”
— Houda Marchani-AsFoury, Youssef's mom
Youssef and his family have had quite a journey together. Better known by his teachers as “The Mayor of UCP,” Youssef is a student at our UCP West Orange Campus where he receives occupational, speech, and physical therapies. Youssef was diagnosed with Autism at an early age and spent his first year in doctors' offices and waiting rooms. Youssef's mom, Houda, visited doctor after doctor trying to get help and resources for him without any luck.
When Youssef turned one year old, he stopped eating and doctors couldn't quite figure out the reason why. Youssef has an older sister, Nora, who at the time was in Pre-K. Houda spoke of a time when her daughter's teacher called the family to tell them that she hadn't been eating, and when asked why, Nora replied, “My brother doesn't want to eat, so I don’t want to eat.” At that point, Houda realized that this wasn’t only affecting Youssef, or her husband. It was affecting the entire family.
At 15 months, Youssef started to lose motor skills. The family felt stuck for a time, but that was until they found out about UCP. The first time that Houda and Youssef sat down with an occupational therapist at UCP, she explained all of the issues they had been having at home. Houda was shocked that the therapist wasn’t surprised and felt confident that Youssef could be helped. “So you're telling me that you've seen this before? You're telling me that you can help? I couldn't believe it. I really couldn't believe it,” said Houda.
After Youssef began attending UCP, the Marchani- As Foury family felt as if they had gotten their lives back. “Youssef was at school. We could breathe and he was safe. He is engaged, he is learning. He is happy. Finally, he is happy,” said Houda of her son. That is when the dynamic of their family changed. They were able to make plans again and family conversations shifted. “Every time I talk about UCP, it doesn't matter how long it has been. I get very emotional because it was a nightmare before. It was. It really was,” said Houda. “But then, there was a very bright light at the end of the tunnel, which was UCP.”
(Written by Natalia Valentin, UCP Marketing Intern)
The Marchani-AsFoury family also loves how teachers and therapists at UCP are advocates for the students. They feel that everyone at the school from the kitchen managers to the teachers that they pass in the hallway, care deeply for Youssef, making them feel like he is in the safest hands possible. “They don't have to do that. But they naturally have this amazing passion for what they are doing,” Houda said. “They are fully invested. They are doing this because they love what they are doing. That's exactly why we are there and why we are staying there,” she added.
We celebrate all of Youssef's success along with his family and friends at UCP West Orange and we are thankful to have them as a part of our UCP community!