Six-year-old twins Delilah and Sophia share a lot of similarities, including their bright smiles and curly hair. However, they also have some significant differences.
Both girls were diagnosed at age 3 with an autism spectrum disorder. While Sophia spends most of her time learning in general education classrooms, her sister Delilah studies best in a special education setting with additional support. Those differences alone made it difficult for the girls’ parents to find a school that could meet the needs of both girls because many schools did not offer autism programs for students beyond pre-kindergarten.
“We really wanted our daughters to be in the same school where we knew they would be there for a while, not just a year or two at a time,” said their mom, Margaret.
A speech therapist recommended The Hope Institute Learning Academy (HILA), and both girls have thrived since enrolling in kindergarten at the start of this school year.
“I feel pretty fortunate that we found HILA,” their mom added. “It’s been a real relief to know they could attend the same school.”
HILA offers a continuum of services to meet the needs of all students and the girls are able to eat lunch together and play during recess. Sophia is higher functioning on the spectrum and spends 80 percent of her classroom time in a general education setting, while her sister Delilah spends most of her time in a special needs setting.
“The amazing faculty, therapists and special needs staff are a source of wisdom and guidance,” Margaret said. “We feel assured that our girls are getting a great education, as well as having their diverse learning needs met. This, along with the continuity of care provided for the next several years, is exactly what we were hoping for when we first heard of the school.”
Since attending HILA, Sophia has improved in following daily routines and developed friendships with classmates. Her sister Delilah initially struggled with transitioning to school from home and from participating in one activity to another. However, teachers have used social stories with photos and behavior modification strategies to help Delilah handle transitions better.
“It helps her feel safe and feel like she’s in a place of comfort,” her mom said.
The sisters have also used sign language to better understand concepts. Both girls like reading and math, and enjoy dancing ballet, bike riding and—like most children their age—watching the Disney animated film “Frozen.” The twins are also working on their ability to engage in back-and-forth conversations.
As they continue to develop, their mom Margaret said she just hopes the twins are happy.
“I know how amazing they are, and I would hope and dream everyone gets to see how amazing and wonderful they are,” she said.
Hope President and CEO Clint Paul added, “The specialized programming at The Hope Institute Learning Academy would not be possible without dedicated donors like you.”