New London Brothers Thriving with Adopted Mom’s Support

Rosa, right, is the adopted mom to Michael, center, and Noah, left.

Rosa Surratt, of New London, is raising Joseph Michael, center, and Noah, left, who both have autism spectrum disorder.

New London resident Rosa Surratt provides a warm, loving home to brothers, Joseph Michael, 16, and Noah, 14.

They call her mom but others might label her advocate, protector or guardian after seeing how she overcomes obstacles often created by their dual autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses.

Rosa doesn’t see a diagnosis. She marvels at and appreciates her sons’ unique way of seeing the world around them despite their struggles.

ASD is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn and behave.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that one in 44 children is identified with ASD and is four times more common to occur in boys than girls.

Company-wide, Monarch serves approximately 900 individuals diagnosed with ASD.

Rosa says their home life is made up of daily routines with the boys working best on a schedule mixed with school and recreational time. She home-schools the boys supplementing education through travel to the beach or the mountains and visits to local points of interest.

Joseph can read at a second-grade level while he is also learning to add, subtract and multiply numbers. Noah is very laid back, has a sense of humor and loves music. The brothers love to dance and plant flowers. They know their manners when dining out. Their home’s ample outdoor space offers opportunities to explore nature.

Rosa admits that the path to today and seeing the boys thriving has been a sometimes bumpy one but worthwhile when she sees them smile. She has support from husband and father, Rodney, and daughter, Tamara. Two other family members, Matthew and Margaret, who also have been diagnosed with ADS, reside in the home.

Soon after each of the boy’s births, Rosa stepped forward to raise the brothers. The biological parents, family members of Rosa’s, were unable to raise the boys.
As they began to grow, her maternal instinct told her something didn’t seem right – non-verbal, easily frustrated, unmet childhood milestones. Both boys were officially diagnosed with ASD by the age of 5. Assigning a medical term to what the boys were experiencing didn’t make life easier.

She appreciates the support she has received from Monarch’s Stanly Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic staff, where the boys are under the care of Medical Director Dr. Robert McHale, M.D., M.Sc., DFAPA, ABPM, FASAM. He began appointments with the brothers in 2013, watching them grow and assisting the Surratt family along the way.

Dr. McHale calls Rosa a “champion” for the boys and has emphasized to her that support is available whenever she needs it: ”She can always come in here and we will support her. I don’t want her to feel alone in the process and as if she doesn’t have anyone to turn to.”

Rosa explains that medications are closely monitored in regard to interactions and which ones are beneficial. “Dr. McHale has never hesitated to call me back or make my concerns a priority which is really important to me. I know that they can do anything they set their mind to do. He has been there every step of the way,” she says.

Before the boys were diagnosed with ASD, Rosa would describe her sons as “out of control.” Medication management has helped curb the emotional outbursts and aggressive behaviors. Rosa says having Dr. McHale’s support in combination with local pediatrician, Dr. Linda W. Lawrence, made overcoming obstacles easier.

Rosa believes Dr. McHale’s empathy for his patients sets him apart. “I see his ability and his acceptability of my sons’ needs but of other kids as well that sets him apart. I think God made Dr. McHale for us. Our little town didn’t have anything for autism. There were no simple answers,” Rosa notes.

Rosa will never set limits on goals the boys can reach. She believes whatever they set their mind to they can achieve and remains thankful for their progress to date.

“If it takes me until they are 50 years old to get through schooling, we will do it. There is always a time and place to learn. They teach me all kinds of stuff every day,” the proud mom states.

For more information about Monarch’s Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic services visit here or call (866) 272-7826 to get started with services.

Posted on: Friday March 24, 2023