Evelyn Manley is a public health nurse in Dayton, Tennessee and the mother of two beautiful sons, Christian and Noah. Christian is four years old and has Down Syndrome. At age two, Christian was diagnosed with autism as well. As a result of his condition, Christian is unable to talk and sometimes acts out physically, which puts him in danger of hurting himself or others.
Because there are few people in Dayton qualified to treat Christian’s developmental delays, it is geographically and financially difficult for Evelyn to obtain adequate health care for her son. Despite this setback, Evelyn was able to secure doctor-ordered Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy for Christian, beginning when he was three years old. The therapists come to Evelyn’s home and help Christian with activities in the school and the community. This therapy has been life-changing; when he was three, Christian hugged and kissed his mother for the first time.
In late 2013, the state cut Christian’s therapy because they said it was no longer necessary. His pediatrician recommended that Evelyn contact the Tennessee Justice Center. Determined to help Christian continue to develop emotionally and maintain his hard-earned progress, Evelyn reached out to TJC.
TJC secured a pro-bono attorney who, with TJC’s training and assistance, appealed and won Christian’s case. Evelyn said she was lucky to have a place to go for help. “TJC helped us during a really hard time,” she said. “They were great advocates for my son, and for our family.”
Evelyn told us, “When you have a child with special needs, you’ll probably always have to push a little bit to make sure those needs are met.” Evelyn gone beyond pushing that “little bit.” She has been a fearless and persistent advocate for her son. When asked what motivated her, she responded, “No one sees your child like you do. No one knows your child like you do.” It’s up to you to fight for your child, because no one will fight like a mother.”
TJC is honored to recognize Evelyn for her tireless efforts to ensure her son’s health care needs are met. Congratulations to this incredible 2014 Mother of the Year.
Photography by Mark Mosrie.