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The silencing of a voice for the voiceless

For those suffering with autism, traumatic brain disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, as well as other disorder or physical or mental impairments, Parkwood Farms in Snellville, Ga., has been a blessing

The silencing of a voice for the voiceless

By Natasha Dowdy Gordon

     Imagine for a moment that you have just become the mother or the father of a beautiful new baby, and as you hold that brand new bundle of joy, your mind begins to wander. You drift into a wonderland of thoughts about what your life is going to be like now that you have this mystical gift that you were so fortunate to be blessed with. You smile with delight as you think about all of the things that you and your new found blessing are going to do together, and you wonder what he or she will look like in a year or two. Then you begin to imagine your little one calling you Mommy or Daddy for the very first time, your heart becomes so full you can hardly stand it.

    With each passing day your child continues to grow stronger, and you picture him or her hitting a softball, or scoring a touchdown, going out on their first date, getting their driver’s license, graduating high school, and then college, getting married, and making you a proud grandparent. You catch yourself and reality hits you and you realize that you are looking at a newborn.

    As time passes you begin to notice that, for some strange reason, your child is not speaking not even babbling, you have friends that have children the same age, and they have a pretty decent vocabulary at this point, but your child does not. You also begin to notice that eye-to-eye contact is nearly next to none with your little one, and then he or she appears to be in their own little world most of the time, and you notice that he or she has a peculiar attachment to toys or other items. At first you just figure that these behaviors are normal, so you ignore them.

    More time passes, and you notice that your child is now much more independent than other children his age, and then you start to put two and two together, you recall that your child does not wave back when he is waved to, then you recall that he is not especially sociable with other children, and then there is this thing where your child appears to hear you sometimes, and at other times, it is just like you are talking to thin air. The light bulb clicks on, and you quickly realize that there is something terribly wrong, and the tantrums that your child has are a bit more than the terrible twos.

    After an evaluation you are told that your child is autistic, and that he will never speak, and he will be prone to a multitude of emotional and psychological disorders. You sob because you now know that you will never hear his voice, he will never be the high school quarterback, and you will never experience that heart wrenching ride in the car as he takes the wheel for the first time. You are devastated, and throughout the years, you have taken your child everywhere possible in an effort to provide him with the help that he and your family needs, but there is no help to be found.

    Traditional therapies like speech therapy, floor therapy, and behavioral modification measures just don’t work.

    As hard as this may be for some to imagine, this is the reality for roughly two million people and their families living in the United States. For those suffering with autism, traumatic brain disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, as well as other disorders or physical or mental impairments, Parkwood Farms in Snellville, Ga., has been a blessing that many of its’ clients say that they never expected.

    Dr. Marylin K. Peterson, her team of very special horses, and 240 volunteers have done what many have deemed as impossible. Dr. Peterson has not only created the safe environment that her patients need, but she has created one that focuses on community, outreach, love, hope, faith, and consistency. Supporters of Parkwood Farms say that what Dr. Peterson does is nothing short of a miracle.

    Dr. Peterson has two children that are autistic, and she said that she was one of those parents that tried everything, but found that nothing was working for her family in regards to traditional treatment methods. A busy chiropractor, Dr. Peterson knew that she had to do something to reach the children that so many others had deemed to be unreachable. “I sold my house that was in Norcross, Ga., and I bought this farm, because I felt that this was what I was being led to do,” Dr. Peterson said.

    Dr. Peterson uses a treatment plan which includes riding horses (Hippotherapy), a mixture of traditional therapies, and chiropractic treatments. Not only has Dr. Peterson helped her own children, but she has helped hundreds of other children and adults within the state of Georgia. Dr. Peterson’s clients are the people that have been thrown away by the rest of the world. “Everyone is welcomed here, I won’t turn anyone away, because as long as there is just a little faith and a little bit of hope, I know that we can make something good happen here,” Peterson said.

     Up until approximately two weeks ago Dr. Peterson’s special horses were ridden by 40 kids each week, and there were all sorts of community skills projects going on at Parkwood Farms, including training for the Special Olympics. Astonishingly enough, not only has Peterson and her combination of treatments given a voice to the voiceless, help to save hundreds of families, and help to provide social freedom to people that were deemed anti-social, she has managed to put together an equestrian team that won gold in last year’s Georgia Special Olympics.

     Now, the farm is closed, the horses are gone, those who were given the voice that they were told they would never have, are once again silenced, and the progress made by so many has been halted, because Dr. Peterson has been in the fight of her life with HSBC National Bank also known as Ever-Home Mortgage, also known as Ever Bank Financial. Dr. Peterson was served with a notice of foreclosure and eviction. Her ordeal began with the original loan on the farm being refinanced, and then sold off to another lender. After being assured that she was set at a fixed mortgage rate, Dr. Peterson found herself strapped to a balloon payment that eventually became far too much for her to handle. After multiple attempts to make arrangements with the bank, officials have basically refused to speak with her. “It has been a horrible experience. I am not worried about me, but my patients do not deserve this, they have all worked so hard, and have come so far,” Peterson said. “There are a couple of attorneys working with me pro Bono on the basis that they believe that the bank engaged in predatory loan practices,” Peterson continued.

     Clients and their families staged a vigil at the farm nearly two weeks ago, and there is a petition on the farm’s Facebook page for anyone that wants to sign it, the petition may also be found at the following web address: http://start2.occupyourhomes.org/petitions/stop-hsbc-bank-from-evicting-parkwood-farms-therapeutic-non-profit-for-disabled-children. There are several campaigns to help save this very special farm, and donations to the farm may be made by visiting the farm’s website at www.parkwoodfarms.org. Anyone with a willing and giving heart is encouraged to do what they can to help this very special doctor and her extraordinary animals.

     Dr. Peterson’s patients are devastated, the community is in turmoil, and Dr. Peterson is beside herself, because this farm is her life. Helping those who can’t fend for themselves is what she has done her entire life. This is a woman who in the heat of the financial crises told the families of her patients who could no longer afford treatments to continue to bring their kids in for treatment and pay her what they could whenever they could. “There are some that have not paid in nearly two years, but it is not about the money, it is about taking care of the most vulnerable in our society, because all kids deserve a chance, and we owe them the best quality of life that we can give them,” Dr. Peterson said

 

 

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    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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