When I think of the difference mothers make in the lives of their children, I think first of Alessandra Arimany—a fiery, bright, determined woman who swept into my office with her arms full of charts and paperwork.
She explained that her child had a problem, and in Guatemala, where she was from, people who have wealth go to the U.S. for diagnosis and treatment.
We did an assessment of her son, Pablo, the eldest of three boys, and found that his problem was a nonverbal learning disability. Seventy-five percent of the information human beings take in is nonverbal: gestures, intonations of the voice, facial expressions, spatial relationships—and that was the material he had difficulty processing.
I laid out a treatment plan and Alessandra went over it carefully, so she could assist in his treatment and explain to Pablo’s teachers how the plan should be implemented. With the involvement of such a dedicated parent, it was no surprise that Pablo was doing extremely well when I saw him a year later.
Nor was it a surprise when Alessandra, who had more determination and personal magnetism than anyone I’d ever met, told me that she had started an organization called the Association of Parents and Professionals for Children with Special Needs (APANNE).
“I was so touched by the impact that you and your team made in our lives,” she says, “that I felt the need to give back to others who felt as lost and desperate as I did.” She then asked me to come to Guatemala and lecture to her group.
This was a decade ago, and since then, I’ve gone often, giving lectures and seminars to an organization that continues to grow. Last summer, the moms and professionals numbered about 300. They’ve brought in local pediatricians, child psychiatrists and consultants to train teachers in educational methods for children with special needs.
But there was more. Alessandra decided to open a school for children with special needs. Her group of families raised the funds to start Colegio Monarch Guatemala, which now serves about 20 children. But if Alessandra’s past achievements are any indication, it could be ten times that number the next time I visit.
Alessandra proves that the power of moms is not love alone, but the ability to focus energy and intelligence on solving a problem. She has created a community around a special need, and provided services for her children and others where none existed before. I’m beginning to think there is no limit to what this mom—and all moms—can accomplish.