Students come to Heartspring with a variety of needs and disabilities. Some come to us with multiple disabilities. These disabilities and challenges can get in the way of the educational process and learning the life skills that our students need to become more independent.
Andrew came to Heartspring in 2006 when he was 10 years old. He had several challenges. Not only was he non-verbal, he was aggressive towards others, didn’t like to be touched, couldn’t read, didn’t like to wear shoes and was taking several medications. He also expected things to be done within “his” time frameand didn’t have a lot of patience.
Andrew also had very specific likes and dislikes when it came to food. He wouldn’t try anything new. Andrew’s dad, Russell, often called him the “fruit guy” because all he wanted to eat was fruit. Heartspring introduced a “bite for bite” program to encourage Andrew to try new foods. It has worked wonderfully and he now enjoys a larger variety of foods at meal time. “Andrew will try almost anything once and usually finds out he really enjoys his choices,” said his paraeducator, Stephanie.
Unable to communicate his wants and or needs verbally, Andrew began using a picture book to help communicate with his staff and with his family. He has graduated to a Dynavox (augmentative speech device) that he will seek out to use to communicate with others. Andrew has become more verbal with this increased technology. If you ask Andrew questions he is more than willing to tell you all about what he likes. His favorite community outing is going to the circus and another favorite is the zoo. He especially likes the elephants. Andrew also likes music, concerts and his favorite movie is Barney.
Academically, Andrew was not able to read or complete math problems when he first came to Heartspring, but now he currently reads at a third grade level with vocabulary site words and increased comprehension. He also works with math flashcards and is learning single digit addition and subtraction problems. Andrew also works on typing with his occupational therapist, Tim Koontz. “Andrew has definitely come a long way on his typing goal; increasing his words typed per minute goal and currently types longer scripts to send family and staff emails regarding his daily activities,” Tim said.
Heartspring’s medical team meets weekly to discuss every student’s medication needsand although Andrew came to Heartspring with several medications, he no longer requires any according to Heartspring registered nurse, Jinny Creed.
It’s clear from talking to our staff that Andrew is a completely different student than when he first arrived. Taylor, another one of Andrew’s paraeducators said, “Andrew has done a 180 degree turn toward the better. He wasn’t even able to wait 15 seconds for anything and through gradual goals of asking him to wait 15 seconds, then one minute, then five minutes and so on, he has little-to-no issues with waiting and even having his scheduled changed.” Additionally, Taylor said that Andrew is now more affectionate. When he first enrolled at Heartspring he didn't like to be touched.
It is success stories like this that, however small or large, show that the staff members at Hearspring are making an impact, one child at a time. Each child matters. Andrew matters. Andrew’s parents agree that small successes over time can make one huge difference in the life of a child and to the lives of an entire family. At Heartspring, each of us gets to be a part of that.