It Only Takes One Voice

Over the last several years, I have had the chance to learn about and be inspired by Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Florida. Their mission, team members and what they have done and continue to do for so many in our community much too often goes unnoticed.  


As an Advisory Board Member at Devereux, I feel that for my voice to be heard and understood by those that I encounter or that are reading this, I need to educate as many as I can about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Florida. It is my hope that my message and my voice will in turn become your voice too!

Devereux began with just one voice.

The brilliant voice of Helena Trafford Devereux. Helena’s passion and desire was to help children with developmental disabilities thrive. Born in Philadelphia in 1885, Helena graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1904. By 1906, she became an educator and started teaching at one of Philadelphia’s most underprivileged communities in South Philadelphia. At the time, children that needed more attention and assistance in school were not being given the help they desperately needed. Helena was far ahead of her time in understanding what these children needed, so she opened her home and her heart. 

Helena Trafford Devereux dedicated her life to help develop and establish educational programs for children with developmental disabilities like autism. In the early 1900’s, developmental disabilities were a very unfamiliar area but Helena Devereux’s unwavering love and understanding for these children led to the non-profit, national organization that has helped hundreds of thousands of children and families throughout the country.

So now, let’s fast forward to 2021 and talk about youth with autism and more.

1 in 54 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and the challenges these youth have with social, emotional and communication skills as well as developing and maintaining relationships can be extremely difficult. Those difficulties can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. This can be even worse for those with autism that have underlying mental health challenges, that may or may not already be diagnosed. 

That is where Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Florida saw an enormous need and developed a program to help families, educators and clinicians work with and help those diagnosed with autism AND co-occurring mental health conditions- the Devereux Florida Behavioral Support Program. 

This support program gives those diagnosed with autism and experiencing mental health issues such as: anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, and some psychiatric conditions a resource and so much more. The Devereux Florida Behavioral Support Program wraps the family with services that cannot be obtained elsewhere. 

So now, here is my voice. 

My voice wants to really explain the  vital importance of this program, especially for our youth between the ages of 12-15.  

As a mother of three, the middle school years were, for my children, about peer acceptance and the need to fit in with their friends. This is developmentally appropriate at that age, and while not easy on parents it is all a part of growing up. Let’s look at what we as a community, state, and nation have endured over the last 18 plus months. Personally, the emotional roller coaster of life is overwhelming for even the most stable adult these days, much less middle school age children with hormonal surges and emotions that change daily. 

Now, take a child that has been diagnosed with autism, add in hormones, and couple that with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or ADD. Where do parents, caretakers, teachers, pediatricians, and guidance counselors turn to get the support and education they need to help these children?

If you answered, “Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Florida” and then went on to explain how Devereux now offers a new program called the Devereux Florida Behavioral Support Program for youth with autism facing mental health obstacles, then my voice is being heard! 

Remember, it only takes one voice, just look at what a difference Helena Trafford Devereux’s voice made.

If you or someone you love is faced with the challenges that autism can bring to a family or have a loved one with autism that seems sad or lonely, there is help. For immediate help, you can reach out directly to FLBehavioralSupport@devereux.org.  

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Written by Kristi Gomen

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