Brady’s parents, Christiane and Harlan, struggled with the decision to send him to a residential school. “It was hard to admit that we could not handle it alone any longer and needed expert help,” said Christiane. Brady came to Heartspring in August 2005. He was having difficulties communicating with others and would get very frustrated as a result. Due to his frustration, he often displayed inappropriate behaviors, including aggression. He also had very limited social skills and therefore didn’t know how to act in certain social situations. Another area that was problematic for Brady was communication. His vocabulary was limited to two or three word phrases and was often hard to understand. In addition, he would appear very restless and often needed redirection in order to stay on task and needed daily guidance in order to take care of his personal appearance. Despite many challenges, Brady has come a long way. “Heartspring’s staff see our son’s potential and work with that in mind,” said Christiane. “He has surpassed my expectations that I had prior to Heartspring by far.”
Brady meets with one of Heartspring’s speech language pathologists, Abby Anthony, and other Heartspring students in two group settings. He used to struggle to independently following direction or asking for clarification on how to play a game and would at times make inappropriate comments. “Now Brady can recognize when he’s not being understood and will use gestures and repeat himself to try and repair the communication breakdown,” said Abby. He is able to ask for help from his peers, where before he wouldn’t. “Brady’s speech has improved so much, even within this last year,” said Julie Hughes, lead classroom para. Together with students and staff, Brady works on his communication skills by carrying on conversations with them, greeting others and by playing games. He is making progress toward his goals of learning to wait his turn, taking turns, and making appropriate comments.
Brady has several strengths. He is working on managing money with his special education teacher, Deb Dunbar. “Brady is given visual aids to help him make appropriate purchases with the money he is given,” said Deb. “If he doesn’t have enough money, he is learning to re-calculate what he can purchase.”
He also walks around the Heartspring campus and picks up papers that need to be recycled. He enjoys reading News2U with his classmates and making the recipes from News2u during the classroom’s Friday morning cooking group. Brady also helps make Buddy Bites, an initiative at Heartspring where students make and sell pet treats. Deb said that Brady also has a very strong visual sense and does very well with “seek and find” photos on the smart board in his classroom.
Leisure time for Brady is another area where he uses his visual strengths. “I can put BIG puzzles together,” he said. He also enjoys movies and one of his favorites is “Shark Boy and Lava Girl.” He helps in his group home by making his bed, washing and folding his clothes, and putting them away in his room. He bakes cookies, shops at Wal-Mart and his favorite place to eat is Pizza Hut.
Travis Grover, Heartspring’s adapted PE teacher, takes the students on several outings, but one of Brady’s favorites is a roller skating party for children with special needs. The students practice very hard for the party. “Brady is an amazing skater and it’s fun to watch him bend down and turn around, “said Deb Dunbar.
Despite the struggle to make the decision that brought Brady to Heartspring, his parents knew it was the right choice. They are grateful to their school district and all those who gave Brady the opportunity to come to Heartspring where he has progressed significantly. Watching the students “cut loose” at prom and sing and dance during the annual Holiday Program are events that make Brady’s parents smile. They have enjoyed watching him learn and grow and have fun with his peers, something that they didn’t think seemed possible. But now they realize that thanks to Heartspring, Brady’s life is full of many possibilities.