Donovan’s Story of Hope
When Donovan first arrived at Hope in kindergarten, he faced severe emotional outbursts and struggled making friends.
Five years later, on May 28 he celebrated with his classmates as he prepared for his transition from Hope to his home school. The party featured cotton candy, popcorn, and a cake with images of chicken nuggets—Donovan’s favorite food.
“To see him, from then to now, is amazing,” said his therapist Ashley Sibert. “We found the spot in the world where he fits.”
Donovan, now age 10, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a developmental disorder considered to be on the milder end of the autism spectrum. Children with the disorder typically have problems socializing and communicating effectively. However, they generally have normal intelligence and near-normal language development.
In 2009, Donovan found Hope through the Lakeshore Program, a partnership with District 186 that allows students struggling at their local schools to attend classes via Hope so they can receive specialized services. Students, who improve like Donovan, can return to their home school.
“Donovan told me, ‘It’s time for me to be at my school. I belong there’,” Ashley recalled.
Donovan finished the end of his fourth grade year full-time at his home school and will start fifth grade there in the fall.
The transition process began in April 2013 with Donovan spending an hour a week in a classroom at his home school with a focus on socializing with peers. His time there gradually increased and his last day at Hope was May 9. His new teachers say he is polite and wants to please them by finishing all his schoolwork.
That amazing transformation didn’t happen overnight and is a testament to the dedicated Hope staff that helped Donovan along the way.
“There are a lot of people who worked to make Donovan successful,” Ashley added.
During his earlier years at Hope, Donovan required occupational and speech therapy to work on writing and enunciating words. Donovan’s mom Jamie remembers that Hope staff would visit him during those times to offer support. Also, a former therapist researched autism to help staff better understand Donovan and offer effective treatments.
“I can’t thank them enough for the support they gave Donovan,” his mom said.
To show just how much Donovan progressed, he didn’t need any of those therapies at the time he left Hope.
“I think it’s pretty wonderful he went from having those services to not needing them anymore,” Ashley said.
Now, Donovan’s mom hopes he continues to improve on managing his anxiety so that he can progress with his peers onto middle school.
“With the right direction to help keep him focused and learning in school, he can accomplish anything,” she said.
Thank you for helping to transform the lives of students like Donovan, who can now return to school with his peers.
At Hope, we support children and families to achieve optimum growth, independence and joy.
The Hope Institute
15 East Hazel Dell Lane
Springfield, IL 62712