Challenges Accepted. Challenges Overcome.

Challenges Accepted. Challenges Overcome.

In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down Syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. A medical term for having an extra copy of a chromosome is ‘trisomy.’ Down Syndrome is also referred to as Trisomy 21.

This extra chromosome 21 leads to the physical features and traits that can occur among individuals with Down Syndrome. It changes how the baby’s body and brain develop, which can cause both mental and physical challenges. Researchers know that Down Syndrome is caused by an extra chromosome, but no one knows for sure why Down Syndrome occurs or how many different factors play a role.

Brendan’s Down Syndrome diagnosis at birth came as a surprise to his parents; nothing in his mom’s ultrasounds during her pregnancy suggested the possibility of Trisomy 21. Their initial reaction was naturally to be scared and overwhelmed. However, they were able to see him for him, and the diagnosis quickly turned into something they absolutely loved about him. While Down Syndrome may be an irrevocable factor in the equation of Brendan’s life, it does not adequately define who he is, what challenges he will or won’t overcome, or predict who he will become.

As with many children born with Down Syndrome, Brendan had developmental delays in speech, fine and gross motor skills and experienced sensory issues. Additionally, Brendan had a few health problems early on that also led to delays in his development. His family worked hard to put Brendan in programs and therapies that would help with his development and increase his chances for independence. From an early age, he was in speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy. He also did hippotherapy (horseback riding) to strengthen his core muscles due to low muscle tone. All of these therapies were instrumental tools in overcoming early challenges in Brendan’s development.

When it came time to send Brendan to school, his family was faced with a new challenge. Where should they send him? Some children with special learning needs can experience difficulties in school, ranging from physical differences, problems with concentration, learning, speech, language, and perception to problems with behavior and/or making and keeping friends. All children need to feel a sense of belonging in ways that elicit positive responses from those around them. Sometimes, a child with special needs can alienate themselves from others when attempting to have their unique requirements met. This can result in the child feeling even more isolated.

Even though they lived in Toledo, Brendan’s mom worked near the New Horizons Academy campus in Wauseon and had heard many positive things about the school. After touring the facility and meeting with the staff they knew this was where they wanted Brendan to attend school. They were impressed, knowing there was so much that NHA had to offer their son. They decided to move forward with applying to NHA’s new campus location in Springfield.

It didn’t take long for Brendan’s family to begin seeing positive results. Within the first couple of weeks, they started observing noticeable improvement in everything from Brendan’s communication, motors skills, social skills, and even using the bathroom. They were amazed that they were noticing progression in all aspects of his development… and continue to do so.

Brendan is communicating his wants and needs much more than ever before. He is forming multi-word communication and using his manners so well. He has become more independent at home and in social environments. The friendships that Brendan has made have been key to him being willing to help, share and play with others. Brendan’s family has been extremely excited because they see the benefits first hand. They have repeatedly made comments about how there has been such a difference in Brendan and how great NHA has been for him.

Brendan’s mom stated, “We feel blessed and appreciative. Brendan has become more independent with life skills at home. We have noticed his behavior in social settings has improved and he is much more interactive. Brendan absolutely loves his school. He looks forward to going everyday! We are so thankful that this opportunity has been given to Brendan.”

His teachers and therapists have noticed Brendan’s progress as well, noting that when he started at NHA, he was shy and hesitant. Quickly, he started to find his voice. He has become this outgoing, outspoken child. He has such an infectious smile and a big heart! One teacher commented, “It has been so amazing to observe Brendan and be a part of his growth this past year.” The challenges Brendan has overcome and strides forward he has made in this short amount of time is so exciting and his family very is confident that, based on what they’ve seen so far, this will continue.

No matter what you have been told, there is hope. Hope for a child to emerge into the independent adults we as parents pray for. There is hope for those who were told they would not learn, or walk, or talk. That hope, is rekindled through the work that is happening at New Horizons Academy. The loving, caring and true compassion that is shown to each and every student, no matter how difficult their condition, disability, or behavior might be, is where the success story starts.

If you are looking for a caring school environment or a place where your special needs student can grow, thrive, and become as independent as he or she possibly can, then please consider calling us at 419-335-7272 and setting up a tour of New Horizons Academy… Where kids come first!

Something Special is Brewing

Something Special is Brewing

This crazy time of staying home and social distancing has definitely changed how we live, work and play. However, it hasn’t diminished the passion that we have for serving our clients, families and students. We’ve been working on something very exciting… and we can’t wait to spill the beans!

One of the biggest challenges we face in our PACE transitional program efforts is finding appropriate vocational experiences for our students. We are so thankful to the local businesses and organizations who have partnered with us to provide opportunities for our students to work. However, even when we are blessed to find placements for students to work, it can be challenging for our staff to transport students from job site to job site across the four-county area providing the necessary job coaching support. Additionally, when a student ages out of our PACE program we are no longer able to provide the much needed guidance our families often need.

To that end, we are finalizing plans to open our own career center this fall. This facility will offer many different vocational opportunities for our students… all under one roof. It will also be a place where our students can continue working even after they graduate from NHA. The building will feature labs and classrooms for vocational training. It will be available to the community for individuals and businesses to rent for weddings, conferences and special events. The most exciting aspect of this facility is that it will feature a fully functioning coffee and pastry shop with a drive-up window!

Our plan is to source fair trade coffee beans and roast our own delicious blends of coffee in-house, providing amazing vocational opportunities for our students… including roasting, packaging, shipping and stocking. From food preparation to catering… cleaning services to facility setup and tear down… we are so excited for the exciting opportunities that this facility will provide!

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available!

NHA Students Growing, Learning & Having Fun with MobyMax!

NHA Students Growing, Learning & Having Fun with MobyMax!

Since the coronavirus school closure, New Horizons Academy has been using the comprehensive, individualized, online MobyMax educational program to help serve our kindergarten through eighth graders.  MobyMax meets the students’ educational, curriculum, and IEP needs while still being fun, imaginative, and rewarding. MobyMax is proven effective!  In a 2018 large-scale research study of 4,000 students, MobyMax helped students learn 53% more than students without it.  With just 20 minutes of instruction a day, some students advanced a full grade level.  According to Tech & Learning, “The study results offer particular hope for students who are below grade level and need to catch up quickly and effectively.  Teachers who need differentiated solutions to help struggling students can also reliably turn to MobyMax for personalized tools like built-in IEP reporting and continuous progress monitoring to find and fix learning gaps.”  That’s what the experts say about MobyMax and why NHA selected it. But let’s hear from one of our students, who earned a MobyMax badge the first week of the school closure.  “Thank you, I deserve that,  because I have been doing really good in science, CRAZY good!” And he and all of our students have been doing “CRAZY good” on MobyMax.  In the first week alone, they studied and worked 16,850 minutes or 280.8 hours.  So far, over 95% of our kindergarten through 8th graders have been working hard on their reading, math, science, and social studies. A big thank you goes out to Title I Reading Specialist Ellen Rupp, who has been coordinating and tracking the MobyMax lessons; and most importantly for our students, she has been awarding their badges, extra games, and rewards! If you haven’t already asked your child how they are doing on MobyMax or asked them what badges they have earned, please sit down with them, and watch them rock out and learn on MobyMax this week.

Virtual Learning Presents Unique Challenges & Opportunities

Virtual Learning Presents Unique Challenges & Opportunities

This is clearly not how we wanted to be serving our students. No one ever envisioned that we would be facing such a unique challenge in how we are allowed to interact with each other. Thankfully, our paras, teachers and therapists have been up for the challenge and have enjoyed their opportunities to to get to know our students in whole new ways. They have enjoyed being able to share their own children with their students as they’ve done virtual lessons, read stories and played together through the computer.

We are SO PROUD of the perseverance and communication we’ve seen from our staff. Their passion and commitment to our students and families has been inspiring. We have loved seeing the paraprofessionals stepping in and making videos, running lessons or leading story times. The entire team came together with their concerns and ideas and were able to work as such a close team that it came together as something we hope you can all be proud of. We are so very thankful for this amazing team.

We are SO BLESSED by the support we’ve have from the families we serve. Thank you for working with us in finding creative ways to stay in touch! We know this has been hard on you. Thank you for helping make time for us to have our “silly” video incentives and spend time together with staff. Your commitment to this process has been crucial in helping our students to stay motivated while completing school work from home!  It has been so much fun getting to know more about our students and their families (and even pets) through this crazy process.

We are happy to report that Taco (our retired therapy dog) has even been getting the opportunity to reconnect with students too!

Don’t Worry. Be Healthy.

Don’t Worry. Be Healthy.

For most of us, we are going though one of most, if not the most, crazy, disruptive times of our entire lives. Our jobs, homes, schools and families are hanging in limbo, suspended in uncertainty. What are we to do?

Have you lost sleep worrying about what could happen? Has worrying and stress about these uncertain times interrupted your life? Your day? Your family? Your mood?

If you answered “yes”, rest assured you’re not alone.

Worry and stress happen to all of us, particularly when it comes to events, people, and things that are important to us. The trouble with worry is it is a complete waste of our valuable time and energy. We all know that… yet we still worry.

“Worry is the advanced interest we pay on troubles that seldom come.”

Worry and stress are huge risks we face. And they’re not healthy. The list of damage that worry can do, because of the biology of stress, is long and scary.

Worry (feeling threatened to any degree) is stress. It sets off a fight or flight survival response, which triggers all sorts of physiological changes in our bodies. The systems more important for immediate survival, like blood pressure and heart rate to circulate more energy throughout the body, get turned up, and the ones not so important for immediate survival, like our immune system or digestion, get turned down.

  • Persistently elevated blood pressure and heart rate raises your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • A depressed immune system makes it harder for your body to fight off all sorts of diseases, or battle them once you do get sick.
  • Stress reduces the protective fluids in the lining of the digestive system exacerbating the risk and severity of ulcers and other digestive disorders.
  • Stress changes blood chemistry, and if persistent, those changes raise your risk of diabetes.
  • Those chemistry changes are also why chronic stress is associated with greater likelihood of clinical depression.
  • Chronic stress impairs the formation of new fast-growing cells, like bone, and hair.
  • Chronic stress reduces your ability to form some new memories, and recall others.

Consider the following words from the apostle Paul, who was writing under very difficult circumstances. He was under house arrest. There was the possibility that he might be acquitted, or he might be beheaded. He didn’t know what his future held. Yet he gave us some of the most inspiring words found in scripture: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:4-6).

Paul wasn’t sitting in some plush resort, writing motivational texts. He was not lounging on some beach, sampling delicious foods and wines. This was a man who was incarcerated, waiting on a verdict that could literally mean life or death. Yet he was somehow able to say, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

Many of us have been experiencing some pretty significant physical, emotional and spiritual challenges the past few weeks.

In Psalm 23, David speaks of how God is with us, even when we go through trials or valleys in our lives: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me”.

Like Paul, David was no stranger to calamity and hardship. This was a man who knew what it was like to suffer. He knew what it was like to face difficulties. He had been hunted like a wild animal by King Saul, even after being anointed as the next king of Israel by the prophet Samuel.

When David brings us this and other psalms, he candidly speaks of his own shortcomings, weaknesses, and questions he faced in life. Psalm 23 came from a man who knew what it was like to need God’s help.

We all go through those valleys in life, those hard times. Whatever valley it is, remember this: You are not alone. That is God’s great promise to the believer.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

The next time you are gripped by fear and worry, the next time you start thinking, “What if this happens? What if that happens?” turn it into a prayer. Look to Jesus and trust Him give you His peace.

2020 “Drive Fore Hope” Event Postponed

2020 “Drive Fore Hope” Event Postponed

Our 2020 “Drive hope  Hope” Charity Golf Scramble previously scheduled for Friday, May 22 has been postponed indefinitely.

With all the uncertainty surrounding Ohio’s current stay-at-home order we need to postpone this year’s event. Even if we were able to get together by this date we can not, in good conscious, solicit sponsorships right now from local businesses who have been negatively impacted by this time of unrest and shut down.

Thank you so much to the individuals and businesses of Northwest Ohio who have so generously supported us over the years. You have blessed us beyond measure and allowed us to carry out our mission.

We will let you know if we are going to be able to move the 2020 Drive Fore Hope to a later date in the year.

Thank You Ohio Elks!

Thank You Ohio Elks!

A BIG Thank You to the Ohio Elks Association & the Toledo-Sylvania Elks Lodge #53!

In the midst of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it is SO good to know that there is good in the world, that people care, and that the Ohio Elks Association supports Sara’s Garden and our special needs kids!

The Ohio Elks Cerebral Palsy (CP) Fund just awarded Sara’s Garden $15,000 towards our multi-sensory, fully accessible, playground equipment and therapy space for our new regional special needs school in Springfield Township or Holland, Ohio, serving the special education needs of students and parents from across Northwest Ohio and the Greater Toledo Area.  The multi-sensory, fully accessible playground will be used for physical education programs, play groups, conductive education classes, recess, and therapy sessions.  This equipment is very important in meeting the educational, functional, therapy, treatment, and independent care needs of our special needs students and Summer Skills Camp participants.

Thank you, Ohio Elks Association!

For more information on the playground project or to donate to it, please email


Tips for Easing Children’s Anxiety About the Coronavirus

Tips for Easing Children’s Anxiety About the Coronavirus

During these difficult times with the coronavirus, closed schools, and the Stay at Home Order, many of our NHA students are having a great deal of anxiety, depression, and emotional concerns.

Here are a few tips for easing your children’ s anxiety about the coronavirus:

  1. Get the facts about the virus, and talk with your children about it.
  2. Ask them what they already know about it and what scares them about it.
  3. Share that it is OK to be anxious and scared but that we are doing everything that we can as a family, school, and country to keep them safe.
  4. Turn off the television and computers, and spend time together.  Media overload may add to rather than reduce children’s anxiety.
  5. With school closed, establish a new home routine to help them regain a sense of control (Wake up, get dressed, brush teeth, eat breakfast, go to a designated spot in the house for schoolwork, take a walk, finish schoolwork, eat lunch, etc.).  Maintain a consistent bedtime and wake up time.
  6. Eat healthy, and get enough sleep and exercise.
  7. Encourage children to do something they enjoy as a stress break or to cope with an anxiety attack.
  8. Help them to stay connected with their teacher, para, and classmates through google classes, phone calls, and teleconferences through Skype, Zoom, Facetime, or Google Meet, Hangout, or Class.
  9. Help them write letters to family or friends, so they can look forward to getting the mail every day.
  10. Stay positive.  Talk about all the things people are doing together to help each other and to stay healthy.

If they are still having trouble talking to you or you don’t know what to say or do, please encourage them to reach out to someone whether that is their mental health counselor through a teleconference, a social worker over the phone, or the Teen Line website.

Please remind your kids that they are not alone!