DSC_5355Zachary has a joy-filled smile that lights up every room he enters.

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.”

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