Josh’s parents, David and Julie, wanted their son to have a “happier life” and searched for schools that could help their son. They found Heartspring and enrolled Josh just one month before his 16th birthday. According to David and Julie, a little over a year later, it was a decision that changed their lives.
An explosive young boy, Josh would hit, bite and pinch himself. He often needed to be restrained to prevent him from harming others or himself. Josh had a lot of anxieties and school was always challenging, therefore he often refused to attend. His school sent staff members to his home for services, but he would repeatedly lock himself in his room. He wouldn’t go out into public places and frequently would not leave his home or “safety blanket” as his parents would say.
Josh will tell you that he didn’t like Heartspring at first. He missed his family. Adapted physical education (APE) wasn’t enjoyable because he had to go swimming and he didn’t like getting in the water or getting wet. He also didn’t like participating in music class. Additionally, Josh was unable to do anything independently. “He would ask permission to do everything,” said Debra Dunbar, Josh’s special education teacher. Josh began spending part of his day in Heartspring’s vocational training program with Cheryl O’Brien and she remembers him being apprehensive. “He was always overly concerned about the work or project he was assigned,” said Cheryl.
Well over a year since his enrollment at Heartspring, Josh has made great strides in his willingness to learn and if you ask him now what he likes best about Heartspring he would tell you, “I like helping the staff.” Staff members are excited to see how many goals Josh has met since coming to Heartspring. He is working on his academics, which include math and reading, and is learning to help reconcile his classroom's “purchasing” bank account. He has learned to use a calculator, can type 13 words per minute and continues to work to improve his handwriting skills.
Josh has many jobs around the Heartspring campus. He works with Verlene Warner, music specialist and pre-vocational instructor, by going around and collecting newspapers to recycle. He also delivers supplies to the group homes. During his time in the vocational training program, he has proven that he can multi-task and has completed some very difficult projects for Cheryl. Josh is also helping Travis Grover in the APE department by prepping the gym for classes each morning. He gets all the necessary equipment out and puts it in its proper place. He also puts all the APE equipment back into the storage areas at the end of the school day and makes sure all the doors are locked. Josh even checks to make sure all the bikes are put away and the recreation balls are in the bins at night.
Along with another student from Heartspring, Josh is learning how to use public transportation by riding the bus and receiving regular bus training. Together with staff, they have gone downtown to purchase their passes and have traveled to the mall. He now anticipates his next community outing. Josh also takes part in Anger Busters, a program created by Heartspring psychologists, that helps him and his classmates deal with frustrations in a positive way.
“Josh’s confidence and self esteem continues to grow,” said his parents. “Heartspring has been an awesome blessing in our lives and Josh has totally changed. He is so proud of himself each time he tries or finishes something new. Heartspring has wonderful, caring staff members that have become part of our family. They have worked with us and Josh to help him become the active young man he is today.”