Author: Taryn Ottaunick

Madison’s story: Speaking up for autism

Madison1Madison Marilla had reached her breaking point.

Starting at a new school after a cross-country move from California to Massachusetts isn’t easy for any eighth grader, but Madison wasn’t just any middle school student. She was diagnosed with autism at age 2.

“No one understood my autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” Madison says. “Kids would push me, steal my things, trip me in the hall, memorize my locker combination.”

Madison started feeling very negative.

After speaking with her mentor, she decided the kids in her class might be able to understand her better if they were more aware of her autism.

Jess, Madison’s mentor, gave her courage and a voice. “She changed me forever. She was always there for me and she always supported me.”

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Dental health: Saving Matthew’s smile

dental healthLooking at Matthew’s full set of teeth, it would be difficult to guess that two years ago, he was in danger of losing them all.

Matthew, now 15, has a complicated medical history. It runs the gamut, including pervasive developmental disorder (part of autism spectrum disorder), acid reflux and intermittent vomiting. Additionally, Matthew has sensory issues that make him averse to the feeling of a toothbrush. All of this combined to make brushing Matthew’s teeth a daily battle for his parents Janet and Michael Carco, and sometimes the battle was impossible to win.

Because of Matthew’s intermittent vomiting, at age 12, he weighed only 55 pounds. His parents and doctors knew all calories mattered. They decided to boost his calorie intake with juice several times a day. It seemed like a great solution. Matthew really enjoyed the juice, and it doubled as a delivery system for a bad-tasting nutritional supplement.

But juice is high in sugar and acids, and Matthew’s teeth began to show signs of severe decay. In addition to the sugar from the juice, Matthew’s seizure medication was filled with sugar that stayed on his teeth, even after brushing them before bedtime.

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“They call me funny guy.”

Care Team(Katherine C. Cohen/Boston Children’s Hospital)

Billy Maxwell

Supervisor of Orthopedic Technicians


They call me funny guy. Whether it’s in Weymouth, Waltham or here in Boston, the kids all come back for their checkups and say ‘Where’s Billy? Where’s the funny guy?’

We’re responsible for putting on casts, setting up any kind of traction for patients and also assisting the doctors with holding a patient in a certain position while they put a cast on or remove one. We do some braces, too.

It breaks my heart when a patient tells me they had a bad experience getting a cast or that their friend has had a bad experience, and they come with a preconceived notion that they’ll have that experience. But if it goes well, they’ll tell their friends: ‘Oh, that didn’t hurt.’

Taking the fear out of the child, that’s my biggest goal.

I have never once woken up and said, ‘I don’t feel like coming to work today.’ Success to me is doing something that you love and that you want to do every day.



care-team-logoCaring for patients is a true team effort. Care Team highlights the dedication of the people throughout Boston Children’s who do their part to comfort and support patient families each and every day.

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