Teens Thrive At Ivy Street

Horror stories. That’s what parents of teens with brain injuries say about life before enrolling their children in the Ivy Street School.

Anger, frustration and sometimes violence were everyday events. Families felt out of control, children were socially ostracized, and schools regularly kicked them out. There was no happy ending in sight.

“Bridget was very angry about changes in her life but unable to deal with it because of her brain injury,” said one dad.

“Stephanie had seven failed (school) placements, because they didn’t understand how to help her, ” her mom said.

Ivy Street focuses on making life meaningful for the young victims of accident, stroke, tumors or genetic abnormalities, and helps them build bridges to adult life.

Brain injuries can be invisible,” said Barbara Salisbury, CEO of MAB Community Services, which operates the school. “Often our kids do well until adolescence, then they go out of control. Schools don’t know what to do, because they look OK on the surface.”

There were no signs of tragedy when HALO visited the school on the day of the annual talent show. Laughing young people rushed to assemble costumes and warmly greeted returning alumni and visitors.

“We take a team approach. We help students acquire skills and strategies to manage their disabilities and work closely with their families,” said Barbara. “The kids are with us for just a short time. They are with their families forever.”

Thirty students aged 13-22 live and attend school year round in a converted mansion in Brookline, a quiet Boston suburb. MAB (formerly Massachusetts Association for the Blind) founded the school in 1993 after medical advances improved survival rates for individuals with brain injuries.

Ivy Street tailors academic plans to each student’s education level and vocational interests. All students start with a job in the school, then advance to volunteer work and then compensated employment in the community.

“Work gives them so much . . . It provides structure, increases confidence and gives them hope. We try to help them build bridges to their future,” said Barbara.

Recent graduate Stephanie Leonard, 22, says Ivy Street helped her find her voice. She writes a blog for a local newspaper, was recently published in the inaugural edition of Our USA Magazine and has been accepted at a community college.

“Kids don’t come in neat packages” Stephanie’s parents told HALO. “Ivy Street transformed her life.”

For more information visit http://www.mabcommunity.org/.