Every parent dreams of a child’s future and the unique memories they will build together along the way. When a parent hears a diagnosis of autism, those happy memories and that future can feel at risk.

When Ashley’s parents were told that she had autism at age 2, doctors said there would be things she would not be able to do — including interacting with others in lively social settings. But those doctors didn’t know that, at age 7, Ashley would become part of May Institute’s extended family, starting as a student in Braintree and eventually attending the May Center School in Randolph. And according to her mother, Kathleen, that has enabled Ashley to do things “beyond anything I could have imagined.”

Now 28, Ashley, who is non-verbal, lives in a local May residence and attends the day habilitation program. Part of a close-knit family, Ashley was happy when she learned of her sister’s engagement and was excited when asked by her sister to serve as maid of honor. The family was confident of the expertise of May Institute staff, who were eager to help Ashley serve in this important role and make it memorable.

The team at May Institute incorporated wedding preparations into Ashley’s program. Her housemates and staff shopped with her for decorations and attended the bridal shower.

Staff took her for dress fittings and were part of the rehearsal dinner. They worked with Ashley so she would be comfortable having her hair and make-up done for the big day, and even attended the wedding with Ashley to ensure everything went smoothly.

Kathleen describes her oldest daughter’s wedding as “surreal” and said seeing Ashley have the poise and grace to walk down the aisle with her brother was truly a special moment.

“I am in awe of the staff at May Institute. They are so caring, kind, and compassionate. None of this would have been possible without their dedication to and support of Ashley,” Kathleen said.

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