How Early Intervention Can Make a Difference: Jake’s Journey
There is a wooden stage in Acworth, Georgia that has waited 18 years just for the squeak of his shoes.
May 24, 2018.
8:00 p.m. EST
Despite its flat plank surface, Jake’s path to this auditorium stage was made up of jagged, tall rocks that needed climbing; needed conquering.
A Box of Memories
Each sentimental paragraph is handwritten with a different colored pencil.
Included in the note are two painted handprints. One of them is tiny in size belonging to Jake. Its vibrant green color slightly smudged from eagerly pressing hard into the paper.
The other is twice as big with ruby red paint. It’s Angela’s. The words “Let’s work together” hover over the overlapping prints.
That was nearly two decades ago.
Tears stream down Jake’s face as he closes the cardboard memory box. It opens a door back to, perhaps, one of the biggest challenges of his life.
Progress Made With Syracuse Early Intervention Program
Jake is now a senior in high school. He likes being outside and working with his hands. He has a solid friend group. There is confidence located in his voice as he speaks of his career aspirations and his woodworking hobby, noting the collection of furniture he has already crafted.
But the same voice that now rattles off his favorite video games and talks with a cool ease about potential post-school plans including welding courses, was once replaced with a loud silence.
Nonverbal at the age of 1, Jake’s family recognized he would benefit from pediatric speech therapy through Little Lukes Preschool's Syracuse early intervention program.
“He regressed back to pointing and actually grunting to communicate,” said Kate, Jake’s grandmother. “He kept stacking things. He stopped walking and went back to crawling. He went from saying a few words to complete silence.”
Jake initially required hand-over-hand support during preschool center activities because he was hiding under chairs and under desks, not participating in circle time with other students. He wasn’t able to express his thoughts, especially when he was frustrated or overwhelmed.
“He didn’t know what to ask or what he wanted,” said Kate.
After several one-on-one Syracuse early intervention sessions in the Green Frog Preschool room, it was with Miss Angela, Little Lukes’ teaching assistant, when Jake regained his own voice.
“With the structure, routine and expectations every day, he became more involved and integrated into the classroom,” said Angela. “By the time he had left the Green Frog room, he was rotating through centers with his peers, sitting at circle time without support, playing with his friends during free time and communicating effectively.”
A Change of Pace
In his puffy, blue bubble snowsuit, nose turning red from another Central New York winter, his tiny feet paced on the porch. Although there were still a handful of minutes until the bus arrived, Jake couldn’t wait. He had somewhere he wanted to go, people he wanted to see, hug and high-five. He had things he wanted to learn.
Spending two years in the Little Lukes program made him more outgoing and gave him the confidence to recognize he was capable.
It’s all because Jake’s selfless and observant grandmother recognized the signs and went to early intervention in Syracuse.
“Miss Angela, Miss Megan and all of the other teachers at Little Lukes, we wouldn’t be where we are today without you. We honestly wouldn’t,” said Kate fighting back tears.
May 24, 2018
The climb, the challenge wasn’t over for Jake when, with a well of tears in his eyes, he released balloons into the air and graduated from Little Lukes. Shortly after finishing up the Little Lukes Oswego daycare program, he moved to Georgia, but his time in Central New York set a tremendous tone that shaped the way he and his family approached his Individual Education Plan going forward.
“I often think about students that have left a 'mark' on me and have influenced my career,” said Angela, former Little Lukes’ teacher assistant who went onto become a special education teacher in Oswego. “Jake is one of those students.”
On May 24, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. Jake’s shoes will reach a summit, a stage where he’ll receive a high school diploma that he fought his way to achieve.
But the trek isn’t over. Not for Jake.
“One day I’d love to become an underwater welder,” said Jake. “They make a lot of money, you know. That way I can take care of my grandmother like she took care of me.”
And then, another journey will commence as he walks off that stage in Acworth, Georgia.
Little Lukes Preschool & Childcare Center is a leading Oswego daycare provider with five locations in New York. The early education program includes credentialed and caring staff that specializes in comprehensive infant, toddler and pre-kindergarten development. Additional services include speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy for babies, toddlers and preschool children.