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Matheny Student’s Family Calls
His Progress ‘Astonishing’

Michael with, from left, grandfather
Jack Brunner; father John Taurozzi and
grandmother Elaine Brunner.

Michael Taurozzi has a contagious smile that lights up a room.  He can’t speak; he has limited vision; and he can’t walk.  But, “the astonishing thing,” says his father, John Taurozzi,“is when I go into his classroom, and  they ask him, ‘Michael, which color is red?’  And he goes to the button and picks the right one, which is red.  It just blows me away that he can do that.” 

When Michael was still in his mother’s womb, he had a stroke, which seriously affected one side of his brain.  But, after spending more than 11 years as a residential student at Matheny, there is, in the words of his mother, Janice Taurozzi, “a big difference in Michael.  He can comprehend now.  He knows when we’re here.  He knows when he’s in the classroom.  He loves going to the mall, and he loves going to the beach.”

Michael is now 18 years old, an age that doctors predicted he wouldn’t reach. When he was five or six years old, his father recalls, “it was very difficult to give him what he needed because we then got to a point where it was very difficult to feed him, so we made the decision that having him in a full-time facility was the only way we could do this long-term.  We did a tremendous amount of research on facilities, and we came to the conclusion that it was Matheny all the way.”  “It was a hard decision,” adds his mother.  “You still think about it everyday – ‘Did I do the right thing?’  But when you come to Matheny, you know you did the right thing.  From the aides to the nurses to the therapists, everybody here is just amazing.”

Michael and his mother, Janice Taurozzi.

Michael was admitted as a resident in May 2000 when he was six years old.  “The [ Randolph] school district kind of made the decision easy for us,” Janice Taurozzi recalls.  “They said if we wanted Michael to come here he would have to be an inpatient because they wouldn’t pay for the transportation.  We had to wait until there was an opening.”

The decision to admit Michael to Matheny had an impact on the entire family.  His grandmother, Elaine Brunner, recalls that, “it was hard on the whole family because he needed so much attention and care.  There were two girls, his sisters, one older and one younger than him, and they were limited as to where they could go and when they could go.  He was getting bigger, but he still needed the care like a three-month old.”  His grandfather, Jack Brunner, remembers the first time he and his wife were at Matheny. “We left with tears in our eyes and our heart pounding,” he says, “but since then we’ve realized this is the best place he could possibly be.”

Michael and his teacher, Christina

Michael’s teacher, Christina Carey, believes Michael’s greatest qualities are, “his smile, laugh and sense of humor.  He loves to interact and verbalize with his peers; and he is always looking for a good laugh.”  John Taurozzi believes his son is so happy because, “the people at Matheny treat him with so much love and care.  That’s the difference here.  It’s not just the medical benefits that the school offers; it’s each and every one of the nurses and the physical therapists and the occupational therapists and the amount of love and care they give these students.”

Everyone who knows Michael remarks about his love for music, and that is strongly confirmed by his music therapist, Alissa West.  “Mike,” she says, “lights up in music therapy.  He loves hearing new sounds and laughs when he hears the instrument sounds he likes best.  He likes moving to upbeat rock songs and vocalizes during improvised music.  He also seems to like deep vibrations made by instruments such as the bass bars or a buffalo drum.  And he giggles when he hears and feels them.”

His father points out that Michael’s strongest sense is his hearing.  “If he’s home and it’s quiet, and I see him open up his eyes and lift his head, I know something’s up.  One thing about Michael – he absorbs the environment.  That’s why Matheny is such an amazing place for him.  It’s upbeat and positive.” 

“When Michael was home,” his mother recalls, “I would spend three hours just feeding him.  I’m so happy he’s here.  You know when you walk in, it’s the right place.”  Matheny, adds Michael’s grandparents, “has given our whole extended family serenity and faith back.”

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