Kennedy’s Story of Hope

Oct 1, 2014 | Uncategorized

Kennedy receives an education at the Hope Institute Learning Academy (HILA) that she can’t get anywhere else.
She was diagnosed with autism at age 4, but now attends fourth grade at Hope’s unique Chicago elementary school that includes special needs children in general education classrooms. That means Kennedy is able to learn right alongside her typically-functioning peers.
Kennedy’s mother Paris said that this innovative classroom setting is the main reason she wanted her daughter to attend HILA, and it has led to Kennedy’s success at school.

“I don’t want her to feel different. She’s not aware of anything being different about her or the next person,” her mom said. “That’s what I love about this school because everyone is learning. They may not be learning at the same pace, but they’re all getting an education—and it’s a quality education.”Kennedy has attended HILA since kindergarten and has been recognized for her good grades. She is an avid reader, and her mom attributes that, in part, to her remarkable memory.“We all have our strengths and weaknesses,” her mom added. “HILA is about identifying them, magnifying the strengths and minimizing the weaknesses.”

Kennedy’s development is a true achievement, especially taking into account what she has overcome. At the age of 2, Kennedy did not talk and a pediatrician believed autism could be the cause. She finally began speaking at age 3, but was diagnosed with autism a year later. Growing up, Kennedy cried often and struggled in social settings. She often relied on holding a blanket or a toy when out in public.

Since she began attending HILA, Kennedy has been able to control her emotions better by taking deep breaths to calm down. She’s also improved her ability to communicate her needs and feelings, said Cathy Witczak, HILA special education teacher.

“These communication skills can be very difficult to develop for people on the spectrum,” she said. “Overall, Kennedy is a happy, young girl with a great imagination.”

To build upon her social skills, Kennedy joined a hip-hop dance class and participated in a summer performance arts program. Kennedy has said when she’s older she wants to be a nurse or teacher.
Kennedy’s mom is planning for her to attend college and to one day start a challenging career that fills her life with joy.

“HILA has shown me that if you’re willing to invest the time into your child and find the right environment for them, they’ll have no problem succeeding,” she said. “There’s no limit to what she can do.”

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