Volunteer Becomes Little Boy’s Friend For Life

JP was a ward of the state when Alexia Vaun Hefflyunn became his education advocate  four years ago.

He is a non-verbal, non-ambulatory, medically-fragile seven and a half year old who has resided at Plymouth Rehabilitation and Health Care Center (formerly Radius) in Plymouth MA since he was a toddler. She is a full-time administrative manager working in Boston, living in Plymouth and studying for a business degree.
J.P. wears his favorite Red Sox cap often.
Many compassionate people generously give their time to others.  In this case Alexia became so devoted to J.P. that she became his legal guardian for life.

Federal education law mandates that parents or guardians participate in the education decision-making process for students with special needs.  When family is not involved, trained volunteers from Massachusetts’ Special Education Surrogate Parent Program are matched with children to monitor their progress and advocate for their needs.
“I was drawn to him immediately.  It surprised me,” said Alexia, who represented two other children previously. 

“I come from a family with a tradition of caring.  I’m the kid who smuggled stray pets home. People in my department call me Mom and come to me with their problems . . . There are a lot of nurses in my family, and I was very tempted to become one . . . but in the end I chose not to go into that kind of profession because I am so deeply affected by people,” Alexia said.

She fell in love with J.P.   She began visiting him most weekends, helping him with hand over hand activities, and joining him in organized programs such as a trip to the barn.
Her dedication did not go unnoticed.  Linda White, education director at the Athena Day School at the center, observed that Alexia went beyond insuring her student received an appropriate education program.  She became invested in helping him live the best life possible.  After several years, J.P.’s social worker asked Alexia to consider making all of J.P.’s decisions.

“In my heart he had already become my family,” she said, so in August 2012 she became his legal guardian.
In the months since she has experienced both joys and challenges.  The medical decisions are the worst, she says.  Despite the best doctors in the world, each time J.P. goes into the hospital, she doesn’t know if he will come back.
“But whether I have him just through tomorrow or 10 years from today I will do my best for him,” Alexia said.  “He’s made me laugh and cry, and changed my life.”

To learn more about being Special Education Surrogate Parent please visit www.sespprogram.org or your state’s Department of Education.