Tessa, a day-only student, has attended the Heartspring School since January 2010. When Tessa first began at Heartspring, she was timid and socializing with others was difficult. She didn’t want to participate in group activities and would exhibit inappropriate behaviors that set her apart from her peers. Megan Swett, Tessa’s Behavioral Specialist at Heartspring, first began helping Tessa learn to make choices and to choose independent leisure activities. “She is making huge strides in both areas,” says Megan. While Tessa has her preferred activities, she is working on participating with her peers during group activities. Her inappropriate behaviors are reducing and she needs less verbal prompting from staff. Tessa has also been able to increase the time she spends on independent leisure activities from 5 minutes to 10 minutes.
Deb Dunbar, Tessa’s Special Education Teacher, says that Tessa is making great gains on several of her classroom goals. One goal in particular is her impressive gains in money management; helping her identify different coins and determining if she has enough money to purchase items. To complete this goal, she has learned to use a calculator and uses addition and subtraction to determine if she has enough money to purchase two items. However, Tessa’s favorite goal is making and answering phone calls.
In addition to the educational goals that Tessa is working on, she enjoys going swimming and delivering Meals on Wheels each week. Deb Dunbar says that when she participates in Meals on Wheels she always has a cheery smile for the people she delivers the meals to. Tessa also enjoys many other community outings with her classmates and most recently attended the Kansas State Fair.
Tessa is also working with an Occupational Therapist (OT) and is working on learning to independently brush her teeth. This is a skill that she currently needs assistance with to be sure that she has thoroughly brushed all of her teeth. Her OT, Tim Koontz, says, "Tessa has shown some progress since being at Heartspring, and this last year she has come closest to meeting her first objective."
Tessa also works with Lori McGuiness, Speech Language Pathologist, to increase her communication skills. Lori says, "Tessa had difficulty answering and asking questions." Now, Tessa is able to work outside of the classroom on her communication goals by greeting others and having social exchanges. Sometimes she uses a "script" to indicate what she is doing. Lori adds, "Tessa needs the social interaction (outside of the classroom)." This has helped her become more social by asking various staff members about their day and making comments such as "Awesome."
Learning to socialize with her peers through better communication has also helped Tessa participate more in her music class, where before, behaviors would get in the way. She has attended all of the live musical productions that Heartspring’s music teacher Verlene Warner schedules for the students. Verlene is also Heartspring’s pre-vocational teacher and she says, "Tessa is improving very well, she not only completes the job task, but she is now one of the students who delivers the educational supplies to each classroom."
Travis Grover, Heartspring's Adaptive Physical Education teacher remembers Tessa being extremely timid and usually unwilling to participate in physical activity. He says, "She is still somewhat reserved, but has made tremendous gains in her adaptive physical education." Tessa now pedals an adult tricycle independently around Heartspring's campus and now has the necessary skills to complete the American Red Cross Swim Skills Level 1. Travis says, "Tessa's most outstanding accomplishment has been her ability to improve her roller-skating skills. She had never been on skates before coming to Heartspring and now with a little assistance, she can skate four complete laps around the gymnasium. Tessa has even participated in our annual roller-skating party at Carousel Skate in Wichita."
Tessa has made improvements in her academic goals, but all Heartspring staff has witnessed her improved ability to communicate and interact socially with others. Even staff who do not work with her regularly have been able to watch Tessa come out of her shell and show her personality. She smiles a lot now and greets others, which is something that she didn't do before.