Just shy of her 38th birthday, Michelle Bekeza was at the peek of her career. She had successfully managed to juggle being mom to three small children at home, while co-creating a multi-million dollar business. Life was a bit hectic, but Michelle had it under control--or, at least she thought. A trip to the doctor would change all of that.
"I was told that my three-year-old baby boy would never speak again. Our doctor told me, 'I'm sorry, but your boy has been diagnosed with autism.'"
God had a plan and a purpose for Michelle. She left the company which she co-founded and went on a mission to find answers.
She ended up on the doorstep of the UCLA medical center in LA, which had world-renowned experts on autism. After weeks of sitting outside of their offices, she convinced them to take her in as an intern, where she absorbed information like a sponge. However, during the process, she was emotionally overcome by the number of distraught moms searching for answers.
Michelle found a new passion as a legal advocate for families with special needs kids. She rolled up her sleeves and created treatment plans. She began to teach parents how to acquire the services they needed through schools and little-known state funded programs. She also worked with local pediatricians to help parents better understand the needs of their newly diagnosed children--bringing them strategies of hope and encouragement.
In 1998, after going back to school, Michelle founded REACHING THE STARS CENTER FOR AUTISM, providing ABA therapy for children with autism, working with schools, and empowering parents. Michelle then implemented a multi-disciplinary approach setting a new standard for traditional cognitive behavioral therapy.
Wanting to find the very best social workers she could find, she hired and trained over 100 behavioral therapists to duplicate the process. Today, Michelle and her team of therapists hold the highest record in the school districts she serves for helping children with autism graduate from special education programs to full independence in regular classrooms.
As for Michelle's son--the one that the doctors' nearly wrote off--he is about to graduate from High School with a near 4.0 grad average. Says Michelle, "While there is no known cure for autism, there are many tools and techniques to change the lives, for the better, for many children. My life's work is to share my experience."