Month: December 2013

A Christmas Miracle

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by Denis Hamill, via NY Daily News

Billy Nacmias weighs in at 168 pounds today (left) since checking into Center for Discovery in the Catskills at 280 pounds (right).

There could be no better Christmas gift than watching your son’s life be saved.

Jack Nacmias last appeared in this space when Hurricane Sandy rampaged and he foolishly tried to weather the storm with his family in Breezy Point, Queens.

But Jack had been used to having his own home wrecked.

He lived with his autistic teenage son, Billy, who had grown up as a mild-mannered boy lost in the bewildering maze of his affliction.

But as Billy reached full-muscled puberty, he was beaten by a teacher in now-defunct Beach Channel High School. Billy’s reaction was to eat uncontrollably until he hit 280 pounds. His anger grew in scary proportion.

“Some days, Billy would just suddenly go berserk and destroy the whole house,” Nacmias said. “The cops would have to come to restrain him. My wife and I would clean up the mess and weep. Not for ourselves. For him. For Billy. We didn’t know how to help him.”

Jack and his wife, Jane, loved Billy as much as their other kids, James and Danielle. But Billy had reached an age when keeping him at home was counterproductive to everyone’s quality of life — especially his own.

The Nacmiases sued the city.

As part of the settlement, the city offered to let them pick an institution of their choosing to try to rectify the harm done to Billy. The Nacmiases searched for the right place, where experts might rechannel Billy’s rage.

A few days after Thanksgiving, I stopped by the Nacmias and Son Sunoco station on Coney Island Ave. for my six-month tuneup. The usually jaded Jack Nacmias was a bouquet of smiles. I asked for the same high-octane gas he was on.

Billy Nacmias as Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol,' a role which contributed to the discipline that led to his dramatic weight loss.

Billy Nacmias as Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol,’ a role which contributed to the discipline that led to his dramatic weight loss.

“I believe in miracles,” he said. “My son Billy has been saved.”

Nacmias started talking as fast as a tobacco auctioneer. Billy had been placed in the Center for Discovery in the Catskills. He said professionals there had transformed his overweight, unhappy, often violent son into a trim, joyful and productive young man.

Jack whipped out remarkable before-and-after photos.

“When we visited him, Billy rushed out and hugged us and proudly showed us the house he shared with four other kids on this 1,000- acre paradise,” Jack said. “There’s a full-time nurse, all kinds of dedicated counselors, and he works with egg production in the henhouse, with horses and sheep. He dropped from 280 pounds to 168 pounds, and he’s the trail leader on team hikes. He’s also studying drama to play Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol.’ ”

Jack is a grizzled Brooklyn grease monkey, not prone to sappy displays of emotion. But as he talked about his son, he wiped a damp eye. “On Thanksgiving, we took Billy to my cousin’s house and he ate with perfect table manners, using a knife and fork,” Jack says. “Billy ate responsibly, and when he was done, he asked if he could be excused.”

Billy Nacmias found a passion for the stage — among other things — at the Center for Discovery in the Catskills.

 Billy Nacmias found a passion for the stage — among other things — at the Center for Discovery in the Catskills.

Nacmias said the Center for Discovery is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and programs for autistic kids like Billy.

“The Center for Discovery uses a holistic approach,” says spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt. “All the food the students eat here is organic, farm fresh. They also work. As they lose weight and detoxify from chemical additives, they tend to calm down and sleep much, much better and act out less. They also can focus and learn more. In his 18 months here, Billy has gone through an astounding transformation. We’re thrilled with his success.”

Nacmias is thrilled, too.

“Listen, I use tools, parts, and labor to make a car run,” he says. “But these people have tools and counselors to perform human miracles. They have given my son Billy a life and given my family more happiness than you could ever know.”

The only sad part of the story is that Billy will soon reach the age of 21, when he must transfer out of the center.

“But his progress has been so remarkable that the counselors are trying to see if they can actually hire him to work with new kids like he was when he first arrived,” his dad says. “If they can, he’ll have his place in life.”

On Wednesday, Jack and his family drove up to see Billy in “A Christmas Carol.”

“I’m a Jew,” said Jack. “But here’s my son Billy, who used to wreck the house, memorizing lines and performing in the greatest Christmas story ever written. When I saw him playing Scrooge on stage, I was in tears with pride. It was the greatest gift our family has ever received. Billy has found meaning in life. Now I understand what Tiny Tim means when he says, ‘God bless us, everyone.’ ”

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/brooklyn-son-saved-scrooge-article-1.1553428

It’s That Time Of The Year Again

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As if any of us needed reminders of why we do what we do, and do so without batting an eyelash…  

AutismSpeaks

A Walk in My Shoes    
C. Waeltermann, 2007

Twas the Night Before Christmas
And all through the house
The creatures were stirring
Yes, even the mouse

We tried melatonin
And gave a hot bath
But the holiday jitters
They always distract

The children were finally
All nestled in bed
When nightmares of terror
Ran through my OWN head

Did I get the right gift?
The right color and style?
Would there be a tantrum
Or even, maybe, a smile?

Our relatives come
But they don’t understand
The pleasure he gets
Just from flapping his hands.

“He needs discipline,” they say
“Just a well-needed smack,
You must learn to parent..”
And on goes the attack

We smile and nod
Because we know deep inside
The argument is moot
Let them all take a side

We know what it’s like
To live with the spectrum
The struggles and triumphs
Achievements, regressions….

But what they don’t know
And what they don’t see
Is the joy that we feel
Over simplicity.

He said “hello”!
He ate something green!
He told his first lie!
He did not cause a scene!

He peed on the potty!
Who cares if he’s ten;
He stopped saying the same thing
Again and again!

Others don’t realize
Just how we can cope
How we bravely hang on
At the end of our rope

But what they don’t see
Is the joy we can’t hide
When our children with autism
Make the tiniest stride

We may look at others
Without the problems we face
With jealousy, hatred
Or even distaste,

But what they don’t know
Nor sometimes do we
Is that children with autism
Bring simplicity.

We don’t get excited
Over expensive things
We jump for joy
With the progress work brings

Children with autism
Try hard every day
That they make us proud
More than words can say.

They work even harder
Than you or I
To achieve something small
To reach a star in the sky

So to those who don’t get it
Or can’t get a clue
Take a walk in my shoes
And I’ll assure you…

That even 10 minutes
Into the walk
You’ll look at me
With respect, even shock.

You will realize
What it is I go through
And the next time you judge
I can assure you

That you won’t say a thing
You’ll be quiet and learn,
Like the years that I did
When the tables were turned.