P. O. Box 770607 Winter Garden, FL 34777 lift@liftdisability.net 1-407-228-8343

Alejandro’s Story

When Nydia and CR Martinez’ son, Alejandro, was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 6, they began a long and arduous journey to find the appropriate treatment that would address all his symptoms. A very smart and advanced young man, Alejandro had a tendency to be hyper and impulsive, and had difficulty focusing. He had other quirks that as first-time parents CR and Nydia brushed off with the perspective, “that’s just Alejandro.” It wasn’t until he entered first grade that many of his differences started to disrupt “the norm”. Some medications helped with the ADHD symptoms but not with his sensory challenges, repetitive movements, flapping of hands, eye contact, and lack of social skills. The Martinez’ tried multiple medications before Nydia decided ADHD was not the sole diagnosis and took Alejandro to get a psychological evaluation. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s (at the time considered high-functioning autism). Getting the diagnosis ended up being a huge relief to CR and Nydia. It helped them better understand what was going on with Alejandro, but they were still experiencing fear and overwhelming stress regarding their role in helping him succeed in life. Most importantly, they wanted him to feel free to be himself and accepted.

In 2014 Alejandro was finishing up 5th grade and was getting ready to embark on the journey of middle school, puberty, and many new emotions. Up to that point, Alejandro had only one friend who was two years his junior. CR and Nydia were looking for ways to increase his social skills and get him involved in more activities, while simultaneously navigating the unexpected challenges of having a child with special needs. Cecilia, Alejandro’s younger sister, was also discovering that her brother was unique, and that at times she would need to be the “bigger” sibling. Earlier that year Nydia’s good friend Ginger Allen, a mother of a child impacted by autism, shared with Nydia about her and her son’s experience at Breakaway camp, and invited the Martinez family to come. Shortly after, The Martinez’ started attending Ginger’s Church where they met Jim and Rhonette Hukill – founders of Lift Disability Network. Upon learning more about Lift and Breakaway through the couple, the family decided to attend Breakaway in the summer of 2014.

Alejandro, Cecilia, and Nydia attended their first Breakaway as crew members. Nydia was not sure what to expect, but hoped Alejandro would have fun and be accepted, and that Cecilia would learn to serve others and have fun. Most importantly she wanted them both to have an atmosphere where they could be themselves. Fortunately, her expectations were blown out of the water. Alejandro had the time of his life! He participated in activities his family never thought he would attempt, he was eager to help out, and he wasn’t worried of what other people were thinking of him. This was the one place he could be himself and IT WAS OK! Nydia was able to connect with other moms who were going through similar experiences – giving and receiving much needed encouragement. Cecilia met another camper who also had a brother with Autism and they instantly connected. Five years later, in spite of having moved to Texas, the Martinez family still attends Breakaway annually. The connections and relationships they have made through Breakaway have majorly impacted their lives; as Nydia expressed, “Breakaway has become our family.”

Today, Alejandro is 15 years old and a Sophomore in high school. He has friends, volunteers on the tech team at church, participates in after school clubs, attends a youth bible study group, and is on the track to graduating with honors and attending college. Nydia recently stated, “If five years ago, someone had told me that this would be my son’s life, I would not have believed them. It would’ve been a dream or mere hope for his future that now is actually a reality.” Lift helped Alejandro in so many ways. It gave him a purpose and a voice. It made him feel important and offered him a sense of belonging. Having a safe place to practice advocating for himself and expressing his feelings gave him the confidence to carry on those skills at school and in the world. The Martinez family recently moved to Texas, but still make the annual trip to attend Breakaway each summer. Alejandro is very adamant about starting a Boost (monthly Lift event) in Texas and bringing Breakaway Camp to their state. He knows firsthand how vital these events can be to other families living with disabilities and special needs.