Kathy KopitskyI again found myself sitting opposite Dr. Maria Broderick in her offices in West Concord. The tone and texture of the space was soothing. The light from the sun was again beautifully illuminating the room. Today I wanted to know why.

Why have a practice that was focused on children and adults with disabilities? That seems so specific to me. I figured there might be an interesting reason why Dr. Broderick, has dedicated her life to this meaningful work. So, I asked her to share her story. It began with her childhood, before she was a doctor and simply known as Maria.

Personal story offers insight

When Maria was six years old she had appendicitis and spent time in the hospital. While in the hospital, she developed pneumonia and spent a longer than usual time there. Thinking this was a horrible experience, I asked Maria if she remembered being alone all that time she was in the hospital. Did she remember being lonely?

I was quite surprised when she told me she did not remember being alone or lonely. She remembered being one of many children in one large room. Not only were there some really sick children in the room, there were also children to play with once Maria felt well enough to play.

Listening makes a difference

There was one child that has never left Maria’s mind. He was an older child, maybe 13 years old. He had some sort of disability that required the use of a wheelchair. Maria remembered lying in bed in the evening when everyone else in the room was asleep and listening to this 13 year old young man talk to one nurse.

“He would ask her what kind of life could he could possibly have when he grew up. I do not remember what the nurse said, but I remember watching her listen to him. She really listened. How she spoke to him…her tone and manner…it really helped him. Even at six years old, I knew that was what I wanted to do for everyone.”

Six year old Maria dreamed a dream where all children were listened to in such a way that, regardless of their condition or station in life, they would find a way to their best selves. And now, Dr. Broderick does just that through her work in integrative health care, helping families with members on the autism spectrum.