3 Is The Magic Number

3 Is The Magic Number

Just as there are three layers to an espresso coffee (the crema, body and heart), there are three aspects of the Special Grounds Coffee business (the roastery, kitchen and cafe) that three of our New Horizons Academy (NHA) Career Center seniors (Gabe Hobby, Tyler Davidoff, and Noah Nagel) are learning.

Most people that visit Special Grounds Coffee Co. or any other coffee house, usually only see and experience the front of house customer service aspects of its counter staff or baristas. Yes, they are the first or initial contact with the public just as the crema is the first or top layer of the espresso shot. Baristas, counter workers, and drive-thru staff greet customers and newcomers, visit with them, take their orders, create their drinks, and serve them delicious baked treats. 

“We want to congratulate and celebrate with senior Gabe Hobby! He just completed his drive thru training and is almost completely independent in serving customers their drinks and desserts,” shared Career Center Coordinator, Amy Murphy.

Gabe has come a long way in a very short period of time. He completed his health and safety food training and his OSHA modules before observing the Special Grounds Coffee Shop operations, shadowing its staff, practicing with job coach April Howard, working alongside experienced Special Grounds baristas and counter staff, and eventually taking drive thru orders and delivering drinks.

As job coach April shared, “Gabe has shown such growth, is so much more self-confident, and is working more and more independently. He follows directions, works well with staff, and works so hard! I am so proud of him!” And that is exactly what we want for all of our Career Center students and why the Special Grounds Coffee Shop was opened and developed…to help our students learn vocational skills and become more and more independent.

The second layer of the espresso is the body. It is the middle of the drink and offers espresso its strength just like the kitchen provides the heavy lifting for the Special Grounds Coffee Shop. The kitchen is the center of activity for the coffee shop and is where all of the delicious treats, breakfast burritos, tasty sandwiches, and fresh salads are made or baked.

Senior Tyler Davidoff is the latest Career Center student to join the kitchen crew. Job trainer Renate Benjamin directs, leads, coaches, and encourages many of our Career Center students, who want to learn aspects of food prep and bakery skills to use in their communities, restaurants, and businesses once they graduate New Horizons Academy. The Career Center Kitchen Crew includes Luke Chambers, Hannah Engler, Cierra Flores and Syndel Barker. All of these are learning so much during their kitchen work study program.

Job trainer Renate shared, “In a short time, Tyler has fit in with the rest of the student kitchen staff at Special Grounds Coffee Shop. With Tyler’s wittiness and willingness, I see Tyler accomplishing many things in his life! Tyler has volunteered numerous times in the kitchen when staff was short-handed. Since his very first day, Tyler has done a wonderful job. He follows directions in the kitchen, follows a recipe, and always asks, ‘What’s next?’”

Tyler is great with his hands. He enjoys pitching in and learning new skills. He learned that customer service was not his favorite aspect of the Special Grounds Coffee Shop…the kitchen was! He found the place at the Career Center where he feels the most comfortable, confident, and at home. And that is exactly what we want for all of our Career Center students and why the Special Grounds Coffee Shop was opened and developed…to help our students find their way, their strengths, and future job and career possibilities.

The third and final layer of the espresso is the heart just as the roastery is the heart of Special Grounds’ coffee business. From roasting, flavoring, product development, packaging, labeling and shipping, the entire cafe centers around our roastery. John Suess and Kayla Rowe roast and blend all of the coffee at Special Grounds. They, along with our Product Development Manager, Trishelle Suess, work closely with our third senior Noah Nagel weighing, bagging, and labeling all of Special Grounds’ retail orders, wholesale orders and special fundraising coffee drives. In the mornings, Noah works with the roastery team to learn the heart of the coffee business. In the afternoon, Noah works part-time behind the counter as a barista and paid coffee shop worker. He has learned the customer service aspects of Special Grounds Coffee, the kitchen work, and is now expanding his horizons in the roasting, flavoring and packaging rooms.

According to Murphy, “Noah has gone above and beyond. He is sought after and fought over between the kitchen and bagging and roasting rooms, He has worked additional shifts in the kitchen, so his classmates could participate in Fall Fest and Fire Safety Day. He communicates well with staff and provides peer support to at least three other students. He has a heart of gold and loves to make and share his treats.”

And that is exactly what we want for all of our Career Center students and why the Special Grounds Coffee Shop was opened and developed…to help our students expand their horizons, develop their leadership skills and potential, and share their caring, compassion, and support with others.

Three really is the magic number for the NHA Career Center and Special Grounds Coffee Shop…crema—Gabe, body—Tyler and heart—Noah!

For more information on Special Grounds Coffee, to explore our menu, to order our freshly roasted and blended coffees right from Wauseon, Ohio, or to learn more about our vocational Career Center opportunities, stop in and see our students at 845 S. Shoop Avenue or log onto our website at SpecialGroundsCoffee.com.

Vocational Training That Works!

Vocational Training That Works!

Thanksgiving is the time of year where we appreciate the people, programs, and organizations that have touched our lives, supported our families, and helped our students to succeed! This year, we are so grateful for Shalian (Shali) McCarley and want to celebrate her accomplishments and appreciate all of the New Horizons Academy (NHA), Career Center, and Special Grounds Coffee staff for helping her to become more confident, independent, and a part of the world of work.

Over five years ago, Shali and her parents, Jack and Sharon McCarley, came to NHA looking for a supportive, special education school environment where she could gain confidence, find her voice, develop work skills, and feel valued and appreciated. According to one of her high school teachers, Ms. Kara Behnfeldt, that is exactly what Shali found. “She grew in confidence; and she developed people skills, as well as, being able to express her thoughts and feelings. Shali thrived in a one-on-one, quiet, supportive classroom environment, where she felt valued.” At NHA, Shali felt that she learned “how to get along with people,” which helped prepare her for her new retail job at Walmart in Napoleon.

Shali may have improved her communication skills and work skills while at NHA and its Career Center; but as Ms. Kara recognized, “Shali is a hard worker who strives to do the best she can.” And she does it through humor and with a smile on her face. “I loved seeing and hearing Shali laugh. When she did, it was always pure joy.” Shali agreed that one of her favorite memories was of one of her classmates making her and her other Career Center classmates laugh all the time.

That laughter continued this fall through the Special Grounds Coffee Shop. After socially graduating last May, Shali returned to the Career Center to bake for the coffee shop. Her favorite thing to make was the breakfast burritos, which her job coach Ms. Renate Benjamin made the work fun and exciting. “During the burrito making, we made up a song called, The Burrito Song. One of my favorite memories is Shali telling me in fun, ‘Ms. Renate, Please don’t sing the burrito song any more’ with a huge smile on her face and laughing as hard as she could.”

The Burrito Song is just one example of the fun, educational tools used to help Shali and her Career Center classmates and coffee shop co-workers “learn how to follow a recipe and measure ingredients in grams and ounces,” shared Renate. Through her work study at the Special Grounds Coffee Shop, “Shali also learned to be part of a team and gained a lot of confidence.”

In addition to breakfast burritos, Shali also learned how to make oatmeal sandwich cookies, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, and yogurt parfaits with fresh fruit and homemade granola; but her all-time favorite coffee shop treat is of course the huge, ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies. Stop by the Special Grounds Coffee Shop, and try one for yourself. They are great with coffee or hot chocolate!

The Special Grounds Coffee Shop and the Career Center Skills Labs offered Shali the chance to practice her communication, social, customer service, and other work-related and vocational skills needed to be successful at her new retail position. They and her job coach also helped allay her fears and reduce her anxieties about starting a new job. Initially, Shali was worried “about being able to do everything the job required,” and now, she is able to enjoy “making new friends.”

Shali has just joined the world of work, and she still has a whole lot of dreams for her future. She wants to “try new things like photography, modeling, and learning more about fashion.” Ms. Kara and the rest of the NHA staff are just so proud of her and “wish her a life of happiness and confidence in whatever she chooses to do and hope she stays in touch.”

This Thanksgiving season, we want to join with Ms. Kara in congratulating Shali on her new job opportunity and celebrate how far she has truly come in making her dreams of independence come true! We also want to take a moment and thank all of the Special Grounds Coffee Shop, NHA, and Career Center teachers, staff, and job coaches for helping Shali to become more confident, independent, and a part of the world of work.

This holiday season, please stop by the Special Grounds Coffee Shop, and celebrate the accomplishments of Shali and our other special needs students! Thank our staff for everything they do to help our students’ dreams come true and for helping them to become as independent as they can possibly be. Remember that all of the proceeds of Special Grounds Coffee support the vocational skills and work study needs of our special needs students.

If you are looking for a caring school environment for your special needs student, an individualized vocational-based program for your high schooler, a Summer Camp where your middle school or high school student can gain valuable work study skills, 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 to set up a tour of our Career Center or NHA school campuses in Wauseon or Springfield. New Horizons Academy…Where Kids Come First!

Special Grounds Coffee Co. was born out of a desire to provide a meaningful vocational experience to individuals with disabilities by creating delicious, high quality products and a welcoming environment. For more information on Special Grounds Coffee, to explore our menu, or to order our freshly roasted and blended coffees right from Wauseon, Ohio, stop into our cafe and see us at 845 S. Shoop Avenue or log onto SpecialGroundsCoffee.com to order online. Special Grounds Coffee… Hope Brews Here. Changing Lives One Cup at a Time.

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!

The Definition of a Winner!

The Definition of a Winner!

These days Christopher Schaub is wearing many hats. He is a 2018 New Horizons Academy (NHA) graduate, Northwest State Community College (NSCC) student, Presidential Scholar, as well as a NHA mentor and role model.

It wasn’t that long ago that Christopher Schaub was a student at New Horizons Academy. He started at NHA as a high schooler in 2014 and excelled throughout his four years. Christopher qualified for College Credit Plus (CCP) classes, earned dual high school-college credit, completed 12 college credits while still in high school, and made both the Dean’s List and Honor Roll through Northwest State Community College.

From his first year’s NHA report card, Intervention Specialist Patrick Nightingale stated, “Christopher has grown more during his sophomore year in high school than any student that I have had the privilege to work with… He has become a stronger, smarter, and more creative asset to any classroom. Christopher has a bright future ahead of him and it was an honor to work with him.”

His maturity and academic strengths continued to blossom and grow during his four years at NHA. While he was here, Christopher had lunch almost daily with the middle schoolers and served as a role model and friend for them. Having received a full-ride Presidential Scholarship with a Legacy Scholarship to Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Christopher has chosen to continue giving back to our middle school and high school students.

This school year, Christopher has volunteered just about every Friday at NHA, having lunch with the middle schoolers, supporting the high schoolers, pitching in wherever he is needed, and even “boogieing” down at the last Spring Dance. Christopher truly cares about the students at New Horizons Academy.

As intervention specialist Jessie Wolfrum put it, “I thought I knew what it was like to be proud of a student, but Christopher took that to a new level! He has set the bar high with his consistent hard work and determination to be successful regardless of the obstacles placed in his path. In my eyes, he is the definition of WINNER!”

And we hope that Christopher keeps winning and succeeding! He has had an absolutely awesome first year of college, taking a wide variety of classes and learning so much. We are so proud that Christopher was and still IS a part of New Horizons Academy! He is a testament to the hope and success that we hope all autistic children can find in their own way here at New Horizons Academy and Sara’s Garden.

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 Sara’s Garden at 419-335-7272 and setting up a tour of New Horizons Academy, our special needs school which serves students from nine counties and 20 different school systems.

Miracles Come in All Sights, Sounds & Even SONGS!

Miracles Come in All Sights, Sounds & Even SONGS!

With the start of the new year, New Horizons Academy (NHA) at Sara’s Garden was honored to share its Christmas miracle. Like the first Christmas, there was a Joseph, a Mary, shepherds, sheep, angels, and wise men. But there were also two crickets, 58 elves, eight tree decorators, three soloists, eight musicians, a cow, and Santa Claus, himself, all portrayed by over 100 special needs kids with a wide variety of abilities—singing, dancing, acting, and playing for very proud parents, grandparents, friends, and family members at Pettisville Missionary Church on December 11, 2018. For many of our young actors and actresses, this was the very first time that they had ever participated in a musical and the first time that they had ever shone like a star on the Christmas stage.

With over 650 people in attendance, this was the largest event that Pettisville Missionary Church had ever hosted with many people standing in the back and many, many cars parked in the grass. “Judging by the number of people that attended, I would say this event was something that was very important to our students and their families. The looks on the kids faces were priceless—they honestly all looked like they were having FUN! Thanks for giving the NHA community a night they will never forget!” shared NHA music teacher, Melissa Valentine.

Without Melissa, this Christmas miracle would not have been possible. Without all of her hard work, vision, dedication, and creativity, the show would not have gone on. It was her inspiration, her brain child. She found or created the absolute perfect role for each of our students’ abilities and personalities and corralled and coached over 100 of our special needs kids through the entire Christmas show. Melissa was truly our miracle worker!

As NHA speech/language pathologist Michelle Nagle shared after the performance, “I just wanted to say how absolutely AWESOME this musical was. Thank you, Melissa, for all your hard work. The students did great! I can’t tell you how many family members I heard gushing about the evening as I walked to my car. Monumental event. Thanks to everyone for supporting our kids and making this happen for them. I was moved to tears several times with pride.”

And she wasn’t the only one. Amy Boyer shared, “I might still be crying tears of joy!”

“I truly cannot believe what just happened. It was the most amazing performance I have ever seen. I am so proud of all the kids, and I absolutely cried!” explained NHA behavior specialist, Cortney Wagler. “Melissa, I cannot adequately express my utmost respect and amazement of what you put together. I had no idea it would be so incredible! Everyone did SUCH a fabulous job!”

If you missed this special Christmas show, Elflandia + Other Musical Masterpieces, check out our YouTube channel for your own special, encore performance (video link below).

Among our stars were—

  • Soloists—Tony Conti, Auron Tanksley, and Anne Deffenbaugh
  • Guitar, Ukulele & Autoharp Musicians—Austyn Schweinhagen, Sam Ellis, Noah Nagel, Holley Schackow, Caden Borton, Daymon Plassman, Omira Santillanes, Kyler Campbell, and Eli Warncke.
  • Tree Decorators—Austin Burns, Cadience Ramirez, Ryan Boyer, Zion Siefker, Lily Ringler, Ethan Pieper, Kamil Plaza, Joshua Schackow, and Ben Rickenberg.
  • Elves—Kendall Sickelbaugh, Nick Fish, Zoe Siefker, Austyn Schweinhagen, Jimmy Forrest, Moses Dominguez, Emma Martenies, Eric Spiller, Anne Deffenbaugh, Liz Reber, Kohen Wiechers, Aiyanna Gonzales, Cole Hicks, Danielle Tillson, Chance Zolman, Eli Saneholtz, Levi Bettinger, Orion Baily-Lacy, Darien Homan, Mark Jacobs, Molly Boylan, Sidney Munger, Syndel Barker, Collin Sintobin, Marcos Valderrama, Justin Tanksley, Cooper O’Neal, Julie Stiff, Carter Radzik, Christian Lee, Jaedyn Knight, Seamus Brookes, Taylar Alpaugh, Kyson Davidson, Bruce Babcock, Temperence Gillen, Axl McCarthy, Elizabeth Heberling, Joseph Green, Abbie Thomas, Raiden Bailey-Lacy, Izzy Armas, Dominic Petz, Breya Zolman, Isaiah DeFiesta, Grayson Shirah, Jace Magallanes, Aadon Riegsecker, Auron Tanksley, Tim Held, Josiah Acevedo, Jackson Moore, Nadia Hancher, Isaiah Canales, and Chase Thompson.
  • Humans—Caden Borton, Tony Conti, Omira Santillanes, Holley Schackow, Daymon Plassman, Kyler Campbell, Noah Nagel, Beaux Barrett, Ellisha Rodriguez, Hannah Engler, Cierra Flores, Luke Chambers, Jacob Triesel, Josh Parran, Joseph Schackow, and Sam Ellis.
  • Shepherds—Sidney Munger, Saul Gallardo, Zeke Beck, Chloe Ruhnke, Luke Zachrich, Jackson Burkholder, Jordan Light, Eli Warncke, and Shalian McCarley.
  • Nativity—Jaedyn Knight, Cole Hicks, Christian Lee, Ellisha Rodriguez, Danielle Tillson, Aiyanna Gonzales, Luke Chambers, Hannah Engler, Cierra Flores, Beaux Barrett, Joey Schackow, Jacob Triesel, and Josh Parran.

No matter what you have been told, there is hope…hope and Christmas miracles. New Horizons Academy at Sara’s Garden may be able to help you and your child find hope in the classroom, in school, and yes, even on the Christmas stage!

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Renewed Dreams Grow in the Garden

For some parents, learning that their child has Autism comes with a sense of sadness and worry as their fears are finally confirmed. Others experience relief, thankful that they have an explanation after years of doubt and questioning regarding their child’s differences and difficulties. For many others, receiving a diagnosis of Autism comes as a complete and total shock.

Chase’s parents experienced a mixture of all three reactions. As Chase grew, his family noticed that he seemed to play differently than his older brother and sister. He preferred to play alone. Initially, they simply chalked this up to Chase being independent. He liked trains and would place them in a straight line, but they gave it very little thought because that’s just what you do with trains. However, as time went on, they noticed he would do the same thing with refrigerator magnets, blocks and cars.

Something just seemed to be different about Chase, especially when compared to other children his own age. He tended to become overly focused on certain objects, rarely made eye contact and failed to engage in typical toddler babbling. His parents became more concerned as time went on. Chase seemed to get angry or had emotional outbursts, especially when he was placed in new or overly stimulating environments.

When Chase was two years old, a family member with an autistic child suggested that they should have him tested. Chase’s parents took him to two different doctors who both diagnosed him with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Concern… relief… shock. Having Autism wasn’t part of the dream when they started a family. At times, they felt overwhelmed, attempting to process all of the information being thrown at them all while trying to make the right decisions for their son.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for many families today. According to the CDC, about 1 percent of the world population has Autism Spectrum Disorder. More than 3.5 million Americans live with ASD. The prevalence of Autism in the United States has increased dramatically since the year 2000, rising from 1 in 150 children to 1 in 59 children.

Ultimately, Chase’s path led his family to Sara’s Garden and New Horizons Academy for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Autism Intervention services. They had heard of how these life-changing services had benefited other children with Autism and wanted to do whatever they could for their son.

Following his first found of 40 HBOT treatments, Chase’s parents noticed that he was becoming more aware of his surroundings. He began babbling for the first time in his life. He started making eye contact and began expressing an interest in spending time with other people. His parents were so thrilled with his progress that they had him complete a second round of treatments where he continued to build on the successes and growth he had received during his first round.

The teachers and paraprofessionals who worked with Chase at New Horizons Academy noticed drastic changes begin to take place as they provided Autism Intervention services. He became so much less frustrated as his words began emerging and he was able to express himself and be understood by others. His social interaction also grew dramatically as he began to play and interact with his peers. Chase was making great gains and meeting milestones that his parents had previously feared might never be achieved.

Before coming to Sara’s Garden, Chase’s parents had many questions about their son’s future. Thanks to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Autism Intervention services at Sara’s Garden, Chase’s family has been given a newfound hope and state that they are “grateful beyond words for what they’ve done, and continue to do, for our Chase”. They can now see their son’s emerging potential and have renewed dreams for his future.

Hope for a child to emerge into the responsible 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 Sara’s Garden and New Horizons Academy. The loving, caring and true compassion that is shown to each and every client, no matter how difficult their condition, disability, or behavior might be, is where the success story starts. Come join us and you’ll see what is possible for a child who has been labeled as “different”.

No matter what you have been told, there is hope… and Sara’s Garden can help you find it.

Turtle Comes Out of His Shell

Education and friendship can play a huge role in the life of any child, but they may be even more vital for a child with Autism.

Autistic children differ in the way they perceive things and respond to the world around them. They often have great difficulty making sense of the world as other children see it. Too often, children with Autism are not the preferred partners of typical children. In the worst of cases, they may be bullied because they look, act or sound different than their typical peers. Children with Autism require caring, individualized attention from teachers and intervention specialists. They may also need extra help interpreting friendships, non-verbal communication, using school equipment, paying attention in class or controlling their behaviors.

For Glen (Turtle as his mother affectionately calls him), the first two weeks of school at New Horizons Academy at Sara’s Garden were extremely rough. It represented yet another change in his life. He had struggled in his previous school placements, often acting out and exhibiting behaviors that made it nearly impossible for teachers to control and teach him or peers to get to know and befriend him.

For weeks, Glen’s mother would literally pry him from the car each morning and carry him into the school. Glen would be hitting, screaming, kicking and biting her the entire way into the building. Each morning, the NHA staff would immediately take Glen into the multi-sensory room when he arrived and spend time with him, helping to calm him down and get him ready for the school day ahead. Many times, he would need to be restrained so he would not hurt himself. His sole focus was on his mother. He desperately wanted to stay with her, fearing that she was leaving him at school forever. However, after spending time in the multi-sensory room Glen would calm down and eventually go to his classroom with his peers.

When Glen started school at NHA, we were told that he had Selective Mutism (SM), an anxiety disorder in which a person who is normally capable of speech does not speak in specific situations or to specific people. We learned that Glen had been teased because of his speech impediment at previous schools and had therefore stopped speaking in public. He lacked self-confidence and was terrified to try new things. Glen had no friends. In fact, according to Glen’s mom, he had never had friends before in his life because other children were afraid of him due to his negative behaviors.

While each morning was difficult for Glen those first weeks, the staff began to notice significant changes.

Every morning, Glen’s outbursts became less severe and shorter in duration. Then, during the third week of school an amazing event took place. Glen came rushing into school, not waiting for his mother to bring him! He appeared to be very excited. Our school administrator, Mr. Burkholder, asked his mother what brought about the change. She stated that she had taken him to Wal-Mart to purchase a special toy… not for himself, but for the new friend that he had made at New Horizons Academy. He could not wait to come to school to give his new friend this toy. This began a new pattern. Glen loves coming to school each day and no longer has negative behaviors.

What has developed from this one friendship is a young boy who quickly began developing self-confidence and trust. He began to excel in his academics and the teachers watched him blossom into a special leader. He continually wants more academic challenges. The teachers realized that despite what was written in all of the reports they had received on Glen, he had so much ability and potential. It was not long into the first grading period that Glen had already mastered the goals that had been written on his IEP.

Now, six months later, he has become his classroom’s “Chatty Cathy”. He loves interacting with his classmates and completing his classwork. Learning how to do simple addition has just clicked in Glen’s brain. It was like watching a light bulb come on. He picked up the concept and is exceeding his yearly goal. Now he wants to do his math work first. Reading continues to be difficult for Glen due to his speech impediment, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He reads with his classmates at his ability level and is always willing to attempt reading new words, which includes weekly spelling words. He has also shown significant improvement when writing letters with the proper formation and always turns in his homework. Once Glen is assigned a task or classroom chore he doesn’t stop. He is the one student that can be given a task and you know it will get done with no supervision. He takes on the responsibility of teaching his classmates how to complete a task or chore with pride.

Glen is now able to receive individualized and differentiated educational instruction. Combined with NHA’s diversity of intervention tools such as Conductive Education, Autism Intervention and Sensory Integration, delivered by a specialized staff that is able to give Glen the necessary focused attention, he continues to excel. He now has many friends. He loves to come to school and you can see him walking around NHA with a smile on his face. When you look at Glen now, as compared to September 2013, you will find a boy full of self-confidence, pride, and happiness.

New Horizons Academy provided Glen with a safe, nurturing environment where he could feel accepted and loved. Once the behaviors were overcome, the teachers no longer have to address bad behaviors, and can focus on his education. Thanks to New Horizons Academy at Sara’s Garden, Turtle has come out of his shell. Glen’s mom gets to see her son’s emerging potential and has renewed dreams for his future.

No matter what you have been told, there is hope. Hope for a child to emerge into the responsible 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. Come join us and you’ll see what is possible for a child who has been labeled as “different”. New Horizons Academy at Sara’s Garden… Where kids come first!