Tree and mountains

Favorite DDI Memory Shared by Sue Brunjes


DDI 60th anniversary logo

what is your favorite DDI memory?

DDI is thrilled we are in our 60th Anniversary year! We are proud of our historic start in 1961 by a small group of parents determined to find a better way to address the special education and therapeutic needs of their children. They came together to form The Suffolk Center for Emotionally Disturbed Children. These original parents chipped in for the teachers’ payroll, they offered classes in their own basements, and they held board meetings in their living rooms! It was an exciting time!

Over the years, the program evolved, and enrollment grew. Six decades later, DDI has emerged as a leader in our field while is immensely still connected to our roots.

We have embarked on a project to collect as many memories as we can from the past six decades, and we are excited to share them with you.

Please enjoy the memory sent in by:

Sue Brunjes

Our journey started with DDI in 1999.  We felt alone trying everything with at-home therapies, dreading the words, “He needs a more intense program.” At 3 years old, Eric started with DDI’s Starting Early Program (currently the Early Childhood Services Program) for half-day sessions.  Being told he needed a full-day program devastated us.  

Young boy's class picture

He then started at the Young Autism Program (currently the Early Childhood Services Program). I can’t say enough about how they transformed Eric and how we felt at ease with the staff and how Eric was loved.  

Fast forward a few years, Eric was 16 and very challenging and feisty. Puberty and seizures were not a good combination. He then went to the Children’s Day Program (CDP). He sure gave everyone a run for their money, but the awesome teacher and staff gained his trust, and he was more compliant.

Young man at the Children's Residential Program

Medically, they handled his seizures and kept a close eye on him, but he was still challenging, to say the least. At this time, Eric was very hard to handle at home. We had to make the heartbreaking decision to place him into the Children’s Residential Program (CRP). As difficult as it was, it had to be done, and Eric stole a lot of hearts there!

Young man and his parents at graduation

Our next journey was graduation from CDP and going to Day Habilitation (COVID impacted that transition), and Eric adjusted as he usually does.  The next and last step was going from the CRP to an Adult Residential Services house. His forever home.  All I can say is I was so anxious and, yes, neurotic about this change; however, Eric flourished.  His managers and Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are nothing short of amazing.  They are kind and caring and make me and my husband able to breathe. Eric comes home on weekends, yet by Sunday afternoon, he wants to go back to the “Dix Hills house.” His second home with his second family.  

Young man and his family and staff/collage

I can go on and on, but the bottom line is DDI saved us and saved our Eric. I never thought I’d see the day he’s decorating a Christmas tree or cracking up with the staff.  Being silly and being happy, sitting on a swing with his manager without us there. I tell everyone at this point in Eric’s life at 25, all I want for him is to be “happy & healthy.”  That’s it.  I call to check on Eric, and when I hear he is happy and healthy, that’s all I need.  

Thank you, DDI, from the entire Brunjes family.

If you have a memory you would like to share, we are compiling memories digitally here:

If you are not the digital type, you can mail any memories to: 99 Hollywood Drive, Smithtown, NY, 11787. Attn: Communications Department.