Give the Gift of Communication

Your help could provide classroom supports to build language and learning.

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Your help could provide classroom supports to build language and learning.

A unique family by any measure, the Wilsons have three children, all born within 10 months of each other (a girl in 2008, followed by twins Bradley and Brandon in 2009). Life with three kids so close in age can be challenging, but add to that an autism diagnosis for one, heart issue for another, and a cochlear implantation for the third - all before they started school.

When the boys were still toddlers their mother, Marcia, met Educational Director Jill Berie and told her that she wanted to send her sons to Gateway. After hearing Mrs. Wilson's story, Ms. Berie told her how difficult the process can be to get not one, but two children nonpublic placements in their first year of school. Mrs. Wilson replied, "You haven't met the Wilsons." The boys were enrolled in Gateway by their 5th birthday, having received Individualized Education Programs (IEP) from their local school system.

Bradley received his cochlear implant at age three, and while it gave him access to some environmental sounds, he wasn't hearing words and wasn't speaking. Always optimistic, Marcia states, "I don't think of his implantation as a failure. While it didn't allow him access to much sound, it does provide a measure of additional safety in hearing alarms and loud noises."

Though it wasn't part of his IEP, the Gateway team worked hard to make sure that Bradley had access to an FM system that worked with his device and as much sign language support as possible. Bradley joins a different class each morning, one in which the morning announcements are made in American Sign Language (ASL). In his regular class, he has help with sign from a team consisting of deaf-educator-supervised interns who spend a portion of each day in the classroom. One of these educators is Amy Bopp, sign language program coordinator at HASA who has been helping Bradley's mom with the transition and teaching her sign language.

This communal approach and shared goal of exposing Bradley to as much communication as possible have helped immensely. Bradley's speech-language pathologist, Shoshana Pear, has loved watching Bradley "link language to learning and develop a system to communicate his uniqueness to the world. Since introducing ASL to Bradley, his interactions with staff, students, and his environment have increased, and we are excited to watch Bradley emerge."

Bradley's IEP was recently updated to include ASL support as part of his IEP, allowing Gateway to hire a 1:1 instructional assistant so that Bradley has the help he needs throughout his day at school.

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