When one walks into Noll Café, it can be expected that you will see dedicated staff, hard-working students, and plenty of smiles to go around. It is not hard to notice all the work put into the café’s operations, and it is especially nice to see new youth growing and succeeding. One youth, Cameron, seems to be thriving in his new role in the café.
Cameron is definitely a familiar face for Hope, but he is new to the vocational program and the café. While he does not reside in the homes of the Hope network, Cameron does attend classes as a day student.
“He is a great young man,” said Cameron’s teacher, Jim Augenstein. “He works hard for me in the classroom. He loves helping other people and other students. He has come a long way.”
In addition to his classes, Cameron has also taken interest in other aspects of Hope as well. He is best known for his role as Aladdin in the spring musical, “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” Cameron was sensational as the male lead for the musical.
Cameron has not only succeeded in the classroom, but in other parts of his development as well. When you see him working, he is friendly, courteous, and skillful in executing tasks and taking orders. His love of helping others also shows through his work.
“Cameron is new to the vocational program and the café,” said Noll Café manager Kristine Gough. “He is doing great.”
Overall, Cameron is another great youth that has really shined at Hope. His future seems endless, as he is already proving that he can accomplish great things. Who knows what he will accomplish next.
With your help, students like this can succeed at Hope. Please consider donating here.
Noll Café at The Hope Institute has great food and great service. The students from Hope that work in the café are always making sure there is an upbeat atmosphere. Michael, 15, one of those students who works at Noll Café is thriving not only in the vocational program here at Hope, but in everything he takes on.
Michael is often seen working the cash register, making sandwiches, or just helping other staff. His friendly demeanor and wonderful personality are apparent whenever you are around Michael.
“The café is fun. I see lots of great people,” said Michael. “I have learned to make many different sandwiches.”
Michael started at Hope in February 2011. Michael was having trouble with the sensory overloads and other aspects of previous school experiences. Then Michael’s family found Hope. When Michael came for his visit, he immediately took to the staff and loved the idea of living in the community homes.
“He was excited to move into campus housing,” said his mother Dawn. “He pretended it was his college just like his older sister, Katie. Some of the transitions were not easy, but he is now very happy in his off-campus group home and loves his classes.”
Michael has succeeded and has become involved in many activities while here at Hope. He has become a member of the Boy Scouts, he has won 22 medals in regional and state Special Olympics, and he has also become very involved in the musical productions during the school year. Some might recognize him as Flounder in “The Little Mermaid,” Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast,” and Jafar in “Aladdin, Jr.”
“I like learning math and reading, and I like playing with the other kids and being in musicals,” said Michael. “Jafar was my favorite character so far, I love his laugh.”
Overall, Michael’s time at Hope has allowed him to open up. He is seen talking a lot now, whereas before, he had very little verbal skills. He has made a lot of progress and he is excited to move into an older class in the vocational program when the school year starts.
“He is happy, learning, and excited about life and being with people. He is becoming responsible and helpful and a joy to take places,” said Dawn. “He is no longer violent or destructive. It is wonderful to see a bright future unfolding for our son.”
Kyle is always willing to lend a hand when needed and volunteers whenever possible. He can often be found holding doors open for people and having a polite and friendly presence in the community.
Kyle, 18, came to Hope because his behaviors were becoming worse. Since arriving, he has made great progress and has become a standout in the vocational program.
Kyle joined Jeni Sorrells’ classroom at the Capital Area Career Center (CACC) in the fall of 2014. There, youth are provided vocational and transition skills needed for their adult lives. With these skills, Kyle will be able to continue focusing on his future and achieving his goals.
“I just want to stay in the game, not give up, and be a better person,” said Kyle.
At CACC, Kyle has flourished, with his behaviors improving to the point where he mastered many new skills. He is described by staff as a leader, who is able to stay on task and can complete all steps of a project with no assistance.
“He has done a great job since joining my class,” said Sorrells. “He is a very efficient and hard-working young man.”
Besides working through Noll’s on-site vocational center, Kyle works for 5 flavors, a local catering company where he cleans and does custodial work. His dedication and friendly attitude are great assets to have in the working world.
“If I can, I want to go to college one day,” said Kyle. “I have a dream of playing for the NBA. I watch a lot of it on TV and I have learned how to play.”
The skills and traits he has shown so far are no doubt going to provide him with the building blocks of a promising future.
Kyle has done tremendously during his time at Hope and CACC, and his hope is to continue succeeding until he ages out of the programs. His goals are set, and there seems to be nothing stopping him!
A few weeks ago, senior students at The Hope School Learning Center in Springfield celebrated graduation. This ceremony, a rite of passage for so many teens, is no less so for our students with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Mid-way through the ceremony, one young graduate stepped to the microphone to sing, and the crowd was moved to tears by what they heard.
Hope music therapist Karen Herzel stood with Alyssa to calm her nerves, but that probably was not necessary. To a recorded accompaniment cd from Disney’s Pocahontas, Alyssa beautifully performed the song “Colors of the Wind”.
The song was perfect for a graduation ceremony, yet not everyone in the audience realized what a huge step the performance represented for Alyssa.
Alyssa arrived at The Hope Institute in 2011. Her mother and stepfather found that as a result of her disability, her behaviors were no longer manageable in the family home. Not long afterward, Alyssa’s mother passed away unexpectedly. Her grandmother and aunt are now her guardians.
When Alyssa arrived at Hope, she was very shy and lacked the confidence to speak, much less perform, in group situations. Yet, after only four years, the educational and behavioral programs at Hope have allowed her to make great progress.
Her progress is simply amazing, according to Ms. Herzel. “This young woman has really come out of her shell. She has worked hard, and we are inspired by what she has done.”
Singing is not the only way that life has changed for Alyssa. She works at Noll Café, a vocational program operated by Hope to provide students with real-world job skills that can promote independence in adulthood. “Alyssa can be proud of the strides she has made while at Hope,” said President and CEO Clint Paul. “Her hard work has provided the opportunity for her to live in the community and hold a job now that she is graduating.”
The great progress made by Alyssa and other Hope students would not be possible without the generous contributions of dedicated donors across America. Hope donors are making a real difference in the lives of the young people we serve!
As an infant, he battled a respiratory virus and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 2 after his family noticed he had trouble talking and making eye contact. He was met with another hurdle in 2011 when he was diagnosed at age 15 with stage III non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that impacts the immune system.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘I’m going to die,’” Aric recalled.
Despite his initial fears, he was brave enough to fight back. Only seven months after his diagnosis, he was found to be cancer- free.
“He’s an amazing kid,” his mom, Nancy, said. “He never ceases to amaze me. He had a lot of bumps on the road during his life, but he’s resilient and bounces back.”
Next up for Aric is conquering the job market.
Now at age 19, Aric is working through Hope’s Vocational Department to increase his independence as he moves into adulthood. He works in the mailroom at local bank double-checking envelopes to ensure no documents were missed. In addition, he works each week as a front desk attendant at The Hope School Learning Center.
“It makes me thrilled,” Aric said of working in the community. “So jobs can see what children with special needs are capable of doing.”
His story of triumph and perseverance exemplifies what Hope is all about: supporting students and their families to show what young people can do when we focus on their abilities instead of their limitations.
“Aric is always willing to take on any leadership tasks that he’s given,” said his vocational teacher, Christina Hoffman. “He’s learned to adapt to change.”
Before enrolling at Hope in the fall of 2014, Aric’s family went to several job sites; but his mom said many employers are still unsure about hiring people with disabilities.
“They’re just not comfortable with how it’s going to work and what extra effort they have to put in. So having this bridge with Hope’s Vocational Department is great for not just Aric, but all kids. It’s teaching employers in the community that it can be done.”
Hope President and CEO Clint Paul added, “Our Vocational Department is a vital part of our effort to connect skilled young people with an eagerness to work with successful businesses in our community.”
Aric is an avid sports fan and during his battle with cancer, he was able to meet the New England Patriots football team and former Atlanta Braves star Brian McCann. His goal is to one day become an NFL coach.
His family fully supports his dream and would like him to continue increasing his job skills so he can live as independently as possible.
“We’re never going to tell him he can’t do something,” Nancy said. “We’re proud he’s our son.”
The success of students like Aric would not be possible without your generous support.
However, later this month he’ll rock the runway and let his legs do the talking.
Joe is one of eight Hope students who will take part in the 10th annual Style of Hope fundraiser fashion show. The event is scheduled for Thursday, March 19 at the lower level ballroom of the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield.
Students were required to audition for the show and Joe impressed the judges.
“We’re very excited for him. It will be his first time ever in a tuxedo,” said his mom, Becky.
“He has a smile that won’t quit and he really embodies the joy we want everyone to see our kids having,” said Joe’s teacher, Mr. Scott March.
Joe is nonverbal and his upcoming appearance on the runway is nothing short of amazing, especially considering his early challenges.
Joe was 4 months old when his grandparents adopted him. As a baby, Joe rarely slept, did not make eye contact and did not want to be held. He later began receiving physical and speech therapy through Texas Children’s Hospital. However, as he aged, his behaviors became more aggressive. His family believed he needed more intensive services and began to look for a place that could better meet his needs. After a two-year search, throughout the country, the family settled on The Hope Institute for Children and Families. The family wanted to be close to Joe, so that meant they would have to move from Houston, Texas to Illinois.
“We would move heaven and earth for Joe if we could; and by coming to Hope, we feel like that’s what we did,” Becky said.
“We wanted him to have absolutely the best, and we feel that’s what he has,” said his dad, John.
It took two years after the family moved for Joe to start attending Hope. Since his arrival, Joe has increased his use of sign language and improved his daily living skills, such as dressing himself before school. He has also been recommended to receive a trial tablet that uses a digital voice to communicate his wants and needs through the Illinois Assistive Technology Program.
“Joe proves what students can achieve when they receive the fundamental support to be successful,” said Hope President and CEO Clint Paul.
Despite being diagnosed with an intellectual disability, Joe is described as an avid reader with amazing comprehension abilities. Joe can also count money and delivers a snack cart to classrooms at The Learning Center. His teachers are focusing on expanding his vocational skills in hopes of increasing his independence as he ages into adulthood.
“It’s really been an inspiration for us to see him progress like he has,” Becky said. “Ultimately, we see him living at an adult group home and working at a job that’s fulfilling. I want him to fully participate in life, whenever and wherever he can.”
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.”
The 13-year-old boy loves sports and continues to improve communicating his wants and needs, though autism and cognitive impairment have made speaking a challenge.
“He interacts well with his peers and has increased his vocabulary,” said teacher Amanda Mallicoat. “He can relate a word to its meaning; it’s just that his cognitive impairment does limit him from being able to communicate what he really has in his brain to us.”
Two years ago, Zachary struggled to make eye contact and interact with others. However, Hope staff members—including a speech pathologist—have worked closely with Zachary to improve his social skills and are amazed at his progress.
Zachary’s growth has been fueled by his interest in classroom technology such as iPads and eBeams, which transform whiteboards into interactive displays that he can write upon and perform other learning exercises. In addition to improving his speaking skills, Zachary has also found success in developing more focus when completing his schoolwork.
“He has been able to focus more when he knows what is expected of him,” Ms. Mallicoat added. “Zachary knows what he likes and enjoys. He loves attention, so we give him positive attention for doing a great job on a task or for paying attention and staying focused.”
That classroom support has also helped Zachary build confidence to tackle some vocational jobs around the school, such as cleaning activity rooms, vacuuming and laundry.
Ms. Mallicoat said it’s important for Zachary to foster job skills so he can be a productive member of society when he graduates from Hope and moves into adulthood.
“It shows that Zachary is enjoying what he’s doing and wants to progress. I want him to be able to have a job skill that he enjoys and thrives at.”
Your donations provide the necessary support to ensure that students like Zachary reach their full potential. Thank you on behalf of all the children of Hope!
His drive to read and speak in full sentences has amazed his teachers and served as a testament to how far he has progressed.
As a toddler, John didn’t speak and his parents worried he may be hearing impaired. However, after experts confirmed he could hear, his mother continued looking for an explanation.
After an appointment with a specialist, John was diagnosed at age 2 ½ with what is now known as an autism spectrum disorder. He did not say his first word until age 3.
“It broke my heart because he was my only boy,” his mother April recalled.
As John aged, his behavior issues worsened. At home, he would break light bulbs, eggs and dishes. During trips to the grocery store, he would rip open bags of chips and suffer meltdowns. Eventually, his behaviors began to impact his family’s quality of life.
“It just became a safety issue for everyone involved,” his mom said.
In a search for options, a caseworker told John’s mom about The Hope Institute, an organization that could better offer her son the care and services he needed. After weighing her options, she made what she now calls the hardest decision of her life.
“I would not wish it on any parent,” she said.
Since arriving at Hope in 2012, John has amazed staff members with his interest in learning how to read, speak in full sentences and operate computers.
“It’s like he’s going through all the developmental stages—and whipping right through them,” said teacher Sherrie Broughton. “He’s finding more words that mean what he wants to say.”
As a new student, John often screamed for long periods of time and tried to run away. Now, his behaviors have greatly improved, which Ms. Broughton attributes to caring, patient staff members.
“We worked to figure out what his interests, needs and wants were,” she said. “We ignore bad behaviors and reward good behaviors.”
John’s mom has noticed the improvement.
“It’s nice to see him happy and healthy,” she said.
John has also been working to develop vocational skills and cleans up his classroom dining area. He is also learning to shave and his mom said she looks forward to him fostering social skills to gain more friends as he gets older.
“I think the people at The Hope Institute are doing a great job,” she said.
The progress of John, and other students at The Hope Institute, would not be possible without your support.
“All the students improve when you have high expectations for them, but he just soared,” said teacher Laura Sandrolini. “Alex has demonstrated academic skills previously unseen in him.”
When Alex began attending classes at Hope, he barely spoke or made eye contact. He also had difficulties writing and interacting with peers and staff members. Now, he’s reading at a preschool level and writes numbers clearly. He also speaks to students and staff members, and participates in class activities. He even speaks some words in Spanish, his first language.
“We provided the classroom structure, order and consistency that students with autism need in order to be successful,” Ms. Sandrolini said. “Alex has learned to use his skills across many environments, determining when they need to be used and where.”
His mom added, “Hope has been a life saver for him.”
Alex is now age 21 and is set to graduate from Hope next spring. Staff members realize that his success into adulthood depends on him gaining more daily living skills, which include cooking, shaving, taking out the trash and learning how to use laundry machines.
In addition, Alex is also working on approaching others to ask for what he needs. He practices ordering food in restaurants during field trips and in the classroom he uses up-to-date technology such as iPads and eBeams.
Alex’s mom hopes he can move to a Chicago-area adult group home next year after he graduates.
“I would like for him to have a job and be as independent as possible. That’s my dream,” she said.
Alex’s success is only possible with your support of The Hope Institute for Children and Families. Will you help more students with a donation today?
“I don’t want her to feel different. She’s not aware of anything being different about her or the next person,” her mom said. “That’s what I love about this school because everyone is learning. They may not be learning at the same pace, but they’re all getting an education—and it’s a quality education.”Kennedy has attended HILA since kindergarten and has been recognized for her good grades. She is an avid reader, and her mom attributes that, in part, to her remarkable memory.“We all have our strengths and weaknesses,” her mom added. “HILA is about identifying them, magnifying the strengths and minimizing the weaknesses.”
Kennedy’s development is a true achievement, especially taking into account what she has overcome. At the age of 2, Kennedy did not talk and a pediatrician believed autism could be the cause. She finally began speaking at age 3, but was diagnosed with autism a year later. Growing up, Kennedy cried often and struggled in social settings. She often relied on holding a blanket or a toy when out in public.
Since she began attending HILA, Kennedy has been able to control her emotions better by taking deep breaths to calm down. She’s also improved her ability to communicate her needs and feelings, said Cathy Witczak, HILA special education teacher.
“These communication skills can be very difficult to develop for people on the spectrum,” she said. “Overall, Kennedy is a happy, young girl with a great imagination.”
To build upon her social skills, Kennedy joined a hip-hop dance class and participated in a summer performance arts program. Kennedy has said when she’s older she wants to be a nurse or teacher.
Kennedy’s mom is planning for her to attend college and to one day start a challenging career that fills her life with joy.
“HILA has shown me that if you’re willing to invest the time into your child and find the right environment for them, they’ll have no problem succeeding,” she said. “There’s no limit to what she can do.”
Thanks to you, we are able to provide students like Kennedy with personalized educations that support their strengths. Will you help more students with a donation today? Donate Now
Like any 9-year-old boy, Griffin loves to explore the world around him.
However, that wasn’t always easy because he walked on his tiptoes, a common trait of children like Griffin who have been diagnosed with autism. After arriving at Hope last October, his family, doctors and Hope staff members teamed up to find the best option to give Griffin the greatest shot at the life he deserves.
Griffin later underwent corrective heel cord lengthening surgery, which allowed him to eventually place his feet flat on the floor and wear typical shoes. Now his movement has increased and he’s able to walk and run around with his peers.
That’s just one example of how Hope staff members work together to better the lives of the students they serve, said Griffin’s mom Marie.
“I really think that his future has opened up so much more since he’s been at Hope,” she said.
Griffin faced issues adjusting at his home school, and his family allowed him to attend Hope because they were looking for a learning institution that could better meet his needs. Before attending Hope, Griffin’s behavior was becoming more aggressive and sometimes he would injure himself. Griffin’s mom Marie remembers the day a woman told her she didn’t believe her son was capable of learning.
“I knew it wasn’t true, but Hope is proving that it’s not true,” she said.
It’s been almost a year since Griffin has attended Hope, and his mom said his focus has increased and he also follows directions much better. Griffin is unable to talk, so teachers are working with him to learn sign language to better communicate with his family, staff members and peers.
“Once we unlock that, I think his whole world is going to open up,” she said.
Libby Rambach, Griffin’s teacher, said his concentration improves when classroom lessons incorporate music, videos and sign language. Griffin, whose nickname is Finn, is now working on increasing his ability to sit calmly in a group, listen and pass items to his classmates.
“I think it’s really exciting when we look at Finn when he first came here and where he is now,” Ms. Rambach said. “We look forward to him increasing his abilities in all areas.”
When Griffin visits his family, his mom has noticed that her son’s daily living skills, including table manners and chores, has progressed.
She believes a large part of her son’s achievements are a result of Hope staff members taking the time to get to know her son and what motivates him to succeed.
“He’s finally seen as an individual at Hope, with a personality,” she said, adding that she’s proud his teacher sets high expectations for him. “Just because he has a disability, that doesn’t give him a free pass at Hope—and I love that because there’s no way Griffin can move forward if you only see him as his autism. You would have put him in a box he can never break out of. At Hope, he’s way more than his disability.”
Griffin has a younger and older brother, and his mom said she ultimately has the same dreams for him that she has for his two siblings.
”I want Griffin to have a happy and meaningful life surrounded by people he loves—and who loves him.”
The Hope Institute is committed to helping young people with autism and other developmental disabilities reach their optimum growth, independence and joy. Will you help us serve other students like Griffin? Donate Now
For years, Hallie would push her mother away when she tried to read to her.
However, after attending Hope for only a few months, a miracle happened. One night before bed, the 9-year-old handed her mother a book.
Hallie, who has been diagnosed with autism and an intellectual disability, began attending Hope in February as a day student after her home school lacked the resources and structure to handle her needs, her mom said.
“I was like, ‘My gosh, you want me to read to you?’” recalled her mother Amy Klespitz. “Now, every night it’s a ritual that we have to read before bed.”
Hallie’s favorite books are the Winnie the Pooh and Curious George series.
“It’s just been an amazing change,” Amy added.
In the classroom, Hallie’s progress has amazed the Hope teaching staff.
“If I’m not here, she could take over,” said teacher Libby Rambach. “Given the tools, she’s been able to achieve what she’s capable of.”
Before coming to Hope, Hallie had troubles controlling her frustration and at times would scream for long periods of time. Hope staff members taught Hallie a counting method to calm herself down when she’s upset and her behavior steadily improved. Teachers used a consistent educational plan to address her needs and incorporated lessons with music, which helped Hallie focus to memorize numbers and words.
Now, Hallie knows the class schedule, passes out materials and collects papers. Her vocabulary has also increased, Libby said.
“She loves learning so much that she’s continually upping the demands of what’s expected of her,” she said. “Hope provides a setting that allows her to reach her optimum growth and development.”
In the past, Hallie did not like the feel of water, which made it hard for her mom to bathe her. At first she didn’t want to step a foot in the school pool, but staff members worked patiently to get Hallie to place a foot in the pool. Next, it was her legs. Now, she goes completely into the water with an instructor.
Hallie’s progress has even improved the quality of life for her family, which includes a younger and older brother. Now she’s willing to take baths, go to grocery stores, visit relatives and go on other family outings. She also brushes her teeth on her own and helps with household chores, her mom said.
“I think Hope makes her really happy,” her mom said. “My whole family has noticed the change in her.”
Thanks to you, we are able to help students like Hallie reach their potential. Will you help more students with a donation today? Donate Now
Amazing things happen when Kieran kicks a soccer ball.
The 18-year-old sports standout is one of two Hope students who won a gold medal June 14 in the soccer skills competition at the Special Olympics State Tournament in Bloomington, IL. The skills exercises included dribbling, shooting, and kicking while running.
“Kieran has always been athletic,” said Derek Forrest, Hope recreation specialist. “We want students to have fun and realize they can do things without people telling them what to do,” Derek added.
In addition to soccer, Kieran also competes in basketball and volleyball. His all-around athletic talent has earned him five gold medals and one bronze in those sports at either the state or local levels.
Since arriving to Hope in 2009, Kieran’s hand and eye coordination has greatly improved, Derek said.
Kieran has been diagnosed with severe mental retardation, but Hope staff members focus on his numerous talents and encourage him to increase his daily living skills so he can one day live as independently as possible. That includes shaving, taking his medication, making his bed and interacting more with peers.
“I am just so proud of him because he has come such a long way,” said Julia White, who became Kieran’s guardian when he was a child after his birth mother, who was her close friend, passed away. At first, Kieran didn’t talk much, but as he got older he spoke more and helped with housework, Julia recalled.
However, as Kieran aged it became harder for her to handle his aggressive behaviors and she worried about his and her family’s safety. That’s when she searched for a place that could better handle his needs–and she found Hope.
“I wanted a place where I knew he would be taken care of and Hope is excellent,” she said.
Kieran now lives in a Hope group home in Springfield and attends Rochester High School, where he also has a cleaning job. Not only does Kieran help out with laundry and other chores at home, but he also assists a housemate who has vision impairment.
Her hope is that when Kieran turns age 21 he can move to an adult group home closer to his family in the Kankakee area.
Hope caseworker Tyler O’Brien said Kieran continues to make gains toward independence and expects him to add more job skills.
“He’s come a long way since he’s been here,” he said. “He has a lot of potential.”
Kieran’s great progress is only possible through your support of The Hope Institute for Children and Families. Miracles happen every day at Hope as we prepare our students for the world and the world for our students. Will you help more students like Kieran succeed with a donation today? Donate Now
When Donovan first arrived at Hope in kindergarten, he faced severe emotional outbursts and struggled making friends.
Five years later, on May 28 he celebrated with his classmates as he prepared for his transition from Hope to his home school. The party featured cotton candy, popcorn, and a cake with images of chicken nuggets—Donovan’s favorite food.
“To see him, from then to now, is amazing,” said his therapist Ashley Sibert. “We found the spot in the world where he fits.”
Donovan, now age 10, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a developmental disorder considered to be on the milder end of the autism spectrum. Children with the disorder typically have problems socializing and communicating effectively. However, they generally have normal intelligence and near-normal language development.
In 2009, Donovan found Hope through the Lakeshore Program, a partnership with District 186 that allows students struggling at their local schools to attend classes via Hope so they can receive specialized services. Students, who improve like Donovan, can return to their home school.
“Donovan told me, ‘It’s time for me to be at my school. I belong there’,” Ashley recalled.
Donovan finished the end of his fourth grade year full-time at his home school and will start fifth grade there in the fall.
The transition process began in April 2013 with Donovan spending an hour a week in a classroom at his home school with a focus on socializing with peers. His time there gradually increased and his last day at Hope was May 9. His new teachers say he is polite and wants to please them by finishing all his schoolwork.
That amazing transformation didn’t happen overnight and is a testament to the dedicated Hope staff that helped Donovan along the way.
“There are a lot of people who worked to make Donovan successful,” Ashley added.
During his earlier years at Hope, Donovan required occupational and speech therapy to work on writing and enunciating words. Donovan’s mom Jamie remembers that Hope staff would visit him during those times to offer support. Also, a former therapist researched autism to help staff better understand Donovan and offer effective treatments.
“I can’t thank them enough for the support they gave Donovan,” his mom said.
To show just how much Donovan progressed, he didn’t need any of those therapies at the time he left Hope.
“I think it’s pretty wonderful he went from having those services to not needing them anymore,” Ashley said.
Now, Donovan’s mom hopes he continues to improve on managing his anxiety so that he can progress with his peers onto middle school.
“With the right direction to help keep him focused and learning in school, he can accomplish anything,” she said.
Thank you for helping to transform the lives of students like Donovan, who can now return to school with his peers.
Hannah and Maisee are beautiful, eight-year-old twins. Like lots of other children their age, they like to get messy in art class and are very curious about the world around them.
But Hannah and Maisee live with autism. And they’ve never developed the ability to speak.
Four years ago, their grandfather, Roger, took them in. He had to quit his job in order to care for them. “At first, I didn’t know much about autism,” Roger admits. “I just knew that they needed me.”
Before coming to live with their grandfather, Hannah and Maisee had been secluded because of their behaviors. They were withdrawn, feared strangers and had tantrums when approached. They almost never left the house.
Roger aimed to change that right away. And, the more he read, the more he realized that autism is not the same experience for every child on the spectrum. “My girls are like snowflakes,” he says. “They interact with the world in completely unique ways.”
Although the girls had special education aids at their local school, Roger felt that they needed more individualized learning and behavioral supports. The only problem was… he had no idea where to find that critical help for his girls until Hannah, Maisee and Roger found Hope.
Roger worked with the girls’ school teacher to transition them into Hope’s autism-focused, day school classrooms.
With Hope’s customized care and education, Hannah and Maisee are so much more confident and content today, especially in their favorite art class. There, the girls are learning to tolerate new textures and are enjoying the satisfaction of completing tasks – important skills that will prepare them for working with their hands in a vocational setting when they grow older.
Most importantly, art provides an essential means of communication for nonverbal children like Hannah and Maisee. Through their artwork, the girls can express what they observe and find interesting about the world around them.
For more than fifty years, Hope’s personalized living, learning and wellness services have offered true hope to children like Hannah and Maisee, who face the extraordinary challenges of autism and other developmental disabilities.
But we could never make this critical difference in so many young lives without the help of caring friends like you.
Roger’s so proud of his granddaughters’ progress at Hope – and you should be, too. “I feel as if the girls are home at Hope,” Roger explains. “My girls may never be able to add or tie their shoelaces, but if they can be surrounded by love and enjoy their lives as much as possible, that’s a dream come true for me.”
Thank you for making dreams come true for families of children like Hannah and Maisee.
You can see the love and promise in a child’s smile.
Loni and Jim have seen it in James’ smile from the first day they met him. In fact, it was his smile that started them on a five year mission – a mission to ensure their son’s hopeful future.
“James had hold of us from day one,” his mother, Loni, says. “We couldn’t imagine life without him.”
James came to his adoptive parents at the age of two. He had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome, so they knew their son would have special needs as he grew.
But James seemed unusually fearful and he struggled to bond with others. He’d bang his head and bounce continuously. Loni suspected James had autism, but his doctors said Down Syndrome and autism couldn’t co-exist. Without a formal diagnosis, Loni couldn’t access the early intervention therapies she felt her son desperately needed.
As he grew older, James became more physically aggressive, a common autism-related trait. “It seemed like, for every one step forward, we took 10 steps back,” Loni explains. “But we always knew we could reach the real James. His smile told us so.”
Loni and Jim were committed to finding the right help for their son’s disabilities. After years of searching, and feeling defeated at times, their efforts were finally rewarded.
Thanks to caring friends like you, James and his family found hope at The Hope Institute.
Hope’s clinical psychologists evaluated James and confirmed a diagnosis of autism. “I started crying,” Loni says. “Finally, someone understood us.”
James’ diagnosis meant he could benefit from the very best treatments, resources and supports for children with developmental disabilities – all right here at The Hope Institute.
At Hope, James receives the personalized education and structured environment he needs in order to learn and thrive every day. When he first arrived on campus, James didn’t speak. Now he’s talking, singing and dancing in speech therapy. He’s doing so well, in fact, that he’s recently moved from Hope’s campus to a community home, where he’s learning essential independent living skills.
Loni and Jim have noticed wonderful changes in their son’s behavior. “James shows love now,” Loni says. “When we visit each Sunday, I get hugs and kisses and he tells me he loves me.”
“The Hope Institute is a perfect name,” Loni adds. “It has given us true hope for our son.”
Your generosity makes it possible for children like James, who struggle with significant developmental disabilities, to live their lives as independently, and joyfully, as possible. Your support makes hopeful futures possible for these inspiring boys and girls, and their devoted families.
Thank you for seeing the love and promise in each one of Hope’s special children.
Brionna is a beautiful, energetic girl with a smile that lights up a room.
But she also has a rare disorder that causes seizures and intellectual disabilities. So, every day presents serious challenges for her.
About two years ago, Brionna’s mother, Diane, was running out of options. Three different schools couldn’t help her daughter. No day care would accept her. Diane had to quit her job. She ran out of money. Then the eviction notice came.
Determined to do the right thing for Brionna, Diane called Hope. “It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” she admits. “But I knew Hope was the only place my daughter would get the quality care she really needs.”
Hope offers Brionna exactly what she needs – a structured, consistent schedule, speech therapy, on-site school and staff who care for, understand and love her around the clock.
Because of the kindness of caring friends like you, Brionna is now busy learning and building skills toward independence. She’s a Girl Scout, plays on the baseball team and attends church – experiences Diane once thought impossible for her daughter.
When Brionna recently said “I love you” to Diane, it was the first time she’d ever heard her daughter speak. Just imagine her joy!
Brionna’s story is just one example of how your heartfelt generosity to The Hope Institute provides real hope to special needs children and their families.
Thank you, again, for opening your heart to Hope’s children.
But then something changed. At 18 months, Jackson began to withdraw. Words he knew disappeared. His gaze became distant. In front of his mother’s eyes, Jackson faded away.
Autism took Jackson.
“I broke down and cried, ‘Why my child?’” Emily remembers. “I was in shock.”
Like any toddler, Jackson threw tantrums. But his were different. He bit and scratched others and banged his head. Emily searched for help from doctors and therapists but nothing worked.
By age five, Jackson was putting himself and others at risk. His kindergarten teacher called Emily so often to take him home that she lost her job. As Jackson’s behaviors escalated, their lives spiraled downward.
“I had to nail our windows shut to protect him from running into the street,” Emily explains. “I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t be in the bathroom by myself for fear he would hurt himself.”
Emily knew she desperately needed help for her son, but she didn’t know where to turn…
… until she found Hope.
When Jackson arrived at Hope, he hit or banged his head more than 50 times a day. His aggression was unpredictable. He required 24/7, one-on-one care – something extremely difficult for Emily, or any other parent, to provide.
Jackson’s team coordinated his medical care with behavioral therapies and teaching strategies to help him focus, so he could begin learning to care for himself and communicate with others.
Today, Jackson is speaking words again, getting dressed on his own and brushing his teeth with only a little help. “Hope’s consistent expectations are helping Jackson gain a sense of control,” Emily says.
At Hope, Jackson is discovering his potential every day. And Emily is discovering her son again.
The Hope Institute creates hopeful futures for children like Jackson every day. But we couldn’t provide this critical care without the heartfelt generosity of friends like you.
Thank you, again, for opening your heart to Hope’s wonderful children.