Little Lukes Where Are They Now: Baby to Teen Story - Jake
Our son Jake Chetney began at Little
Lukes 3 months before his 3rd Birthday back in 2004. Two months
after he was diagnosed with a moderate case of Autism, he was enrolled five days
a week, five hours a day, for 2 ½ years.
Believe me when we tell you, the hardest thing we ever had to do was send our baby to school every day for such a long day with strangers in hopes that they could help him. We felt like we just hadn’t had him at home long enough yet. While accepting and understanding what Autism meant, early intervention professionals encouraged us that this was the best step we could take to help Jake.
We needed our son to speak, have a 2 way conversation, look a person in the eye, hold a pencil, go into a grocery store without melting down, attend a Birthday party with friends, make friends, sit contently at the dinner table, or even hug his Mom and Dad. These were all things that we were very uncertain would ever happen. So with reservation we agreed to what at the time seemed a drastic measure.
So in January of 2004, Jake was enrolled in the Orange Octopus room with a full schedule. He had a 1:1, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and a Behavioral therapy plan. At first it was very stressful for him and us. Everyone was crying, Jake, us (his parents), even his teachers sometimes. This was quite an adjustment for everyone.
By June of that year, we were shocked at the progress in our son. He couldn’t tell us yet that he liked Little Lukes, but he didn’t cry and we started to see smiles when he went to school. He was looking when his name was spoken. He was using sign language to express some of his needs. He would sit and eat a meal. We saw this carrying over at home as well. Little Luke’s teachers/therapist were always giving us ideas and ways to help Jake outside the classroom walls of Little Lukes. They truly wanted his success to carry over into all parts of Jake’s life. I recall going in to learn many times how to address his sensory needs. His therapist always took the time to show us how to help him.
Honestly the next two years of Jake’s time at Little Luke was one success story after another. Having a 1:1, teachers and therapists who simply went above and beyond to reach our child and help him acquire the skills he needed for school, but more importantly to us, for life was immeasurable. By the time he graduated and was heading to Kindergarten, he was speaking short sentences, looking at people when they spoke to him, sitting for periods of time to listen, learn and engage, and was showing signs of affection to his family.
Without question, we believe that attending Little Lukes as soon as he possibly could for the amount of time that he did, was the most important and critical measure we as parents took to help our son be as functional as he is today. Jake is now a freshmen at Oswego High School. While he had a 1:1 at elementary school until the 3rd Grade, he continued to grow, and improve in all areas of his life. Jake is now a member of the high school Soccer and Basketball team. He is a member of the YMCA. He has a schedule of mostly honors classes, and has been in the top 25 of his class since the 7th grade.
Most important to us is that Jake has friends. He makes friends, he laughs with them, and he has fun with them. This area of his life has been the longest struggle and some days, still is. But everyday he continues to surprise everyone around him. Jake has some really amazing memories of Little Lukes, but they are not of times, or activities, rather they are of the people that took such great care of him. He is still in touch with his 1:1, and his special education teacher. Like us, they are truly amazed at his every success because we all know how far he has come. While he can’t remember the moments exactly, he remembers these amazing teachers who he knows helped him.
Julie and Brian Chetney (parents of Jake Chetney, class of 2006)