Before 16-year-old Elaine was enrolled in Wayfinder’s Special Education School four years ago, her mother Yaheni described her daughter in one word: frustrated.
“She didn’t want to go to school or get out of the bed and go on the bus,” Yaheni recalls. “Since attending Wayfinder, I’ve seen such a drastic change in Elaine — she’s very happy and wants to attend school each and every day.”
Elaine’s passion for school isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Her behavior is better overall, and she also began to use her utensils after starting school, according to her mother.
“She listens better than she used to and no longer walks away like before,” Yaheni says. “Now she’s always laughing and having a good time.”
Through individualized instruction, Wayfinder’s Special Education School provides students, many of whom have multiple, profound disabilities, with the education, counseling and resources needed to achieve greater independence.
Since Wayfinder’s Special Education School limits classes to 12 students with a 1:2 staff-to-student ratio (and 1:1 ratio if needed), students like Elaine are able to thrive.
As an infant, Elaine was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus, also known as fluid on the brain, and damage to her optic nerves, which affects her vision. She has a history of seizures and severe cognitive disabilities, but she doesn’t let that stop her from being a social, friendly and cheerful young woman.
“Elaine initiates conversations with everyone who walks in the classroom,” reports Sheila Thomas, Elaine’s teacher for the last two years. “No matter what task she’s working on, she raises her right hand to wave, saying ‘hi’ over and over. She will say ‘bye’ when she sees the person walk toward the door.”
At school, Elaine completes a variety of tasks and activities such as preparing snacks, self-feeding, playing games with friends, and cleaning up. Elaine and her classmates also take community walks, go on outings, play games, cook and have fun together.
Elaine especially enjoys playing cause and effects games with other students and loves toys with music, lights and movement.
Whether participating in circle time, singing songs with her classmates or listening to music, Elaine finds joy. “She will sing each word in her own tune and dance like no one else is watching — I love that about her,” Sheila adds.
Elaine recently celebrated her 16th birthday at Wayfinder’s Special Education School. She wore a pretty dress and had her hair styled for the occasion. Her classmates sang “Happy Birthday” at school, and everyone enjoyed dessert provided by Elaine’s parents.
“She clapped and smiled with delight,” Sheila recalls. “Elaine loves to interact with her peers, staff and familiar people.”
After working with Elaine for two years, Sheila is able to communicate one-on-one, using short sentences. Elaine, who also uses gestures to interact, is able to follow simple commands like “let’s go” and “hang up your backpack.”
Elaine says words such as “good girl,” “mama” and “alright” and understands more than she can express, according to her teacher.
While she continues to thrive at Wayfinder’s Special Education School, Yaheni and Sheila have thought about Elaine’s future. Her mother would like to see Elaine be more independent after graduation and Sheila is confident that Elaine is on that path.
Learn more about Wayfinder’s Special Education School here.