By Sean Patrick Murphy
To show his appreciation for the school that helped his autistic son, John Braciszewski is donating some of his earnings.
Braciszewski, who owns J. Brazz Auto Service Center on Route 70 in Medford, gave 5 percent of his gross profits in April to the Richard L. Rice Elementary School, specifically to the autism program at the preschool.
Braciszewski donated $2,300. April is autism awareness month.
John, his wife Marla, his 5 year-old son Brandon, and 3 year-old daughter Ava live in Marlton.
Marla said the entire donation goes directly to the teachers.
“We’re hoping that it grows every year,” she said.
Brandon was officially diagnosed with autism when he was two and a half.
“I had suspicions when he was a year, to 15 months,” Marla said, noting how Brandon stopped using words and stopped making eye contact.
She described how her son would repeatedly open and close doors and anything on a hinge, even books. Brandon would scream if you took him away from a door. He would not play with other kids, couldn’t talk, and had tantrums.
Marla contacted Burlington County early intervention. They don’t diagnosed but evaluate to see if the family qualified for certain services.
When Brandon was 15 months, the county program advised Marla to have him play as much as possible with other kids (he was an only child at that time).
It didn’t work.
The county saw him again at 18 months and they said there were “a lot of red flags for autism,” Marla said.
So Brandon started occupational therapy and behavior therapy (which included speech therapy) until he was 3 and started preschool.
Once there, Brandon started occupational therapy again, physical therapy, and had his own speech therapist.
“He had words but he wasn’t using them to communicate,” Marla said, noting that Brandon would scream instead of asking simple questions and didn’t even point.
Marla welled up when she remember when the speech therapist who arrived to evaluate Brandon found him hiding in a box. The therapist crawled in with him.
Now Brandon, who will be 6 next month, understands, can carry on a conversation, can make eye contact, and can point.
He spent two years in the Rice program and one year at Robert Jaggard Elementary School. Brandon is not in an autism group now but a class with multiple disabled.
Marla said Brandon’s autism was rated moderate to severe when he started the Rice program and it was considered mild when he left.
Brandon said he likes school (mostly for the toys) and even his little sister.
“He’s doing 500 times better,” Marla said. “Sometimes you see him and you would never even know he was autistic.”