Luciana’s Story of Hope

May 30, 2012 | Uncategorized

If you could meet Luciana, you’d say she’s one of the most talkative, inquisitive and friendliest first- graders you’ve ever met.

You’d never know that just three years ago, she spoke very few words.

Luciana’s parents adopted her from an orphanage in Kazakhstan when she was one. They knew their baby had serious vision problems that would need medical attention. And they understood the potential effects of “institutional autism” – developmental delays caused by lack of attention and stimulation during infancy.

So, when Luciana’s parents brought her home, they secured early intervention and therapeutic services to help their daughter grow and learn to the best of her abilities. By her third birthday, little Lucci still struggled to speak, but she was successfully communicating using a combination of words and sign language. She was making tremendous strides.

But then Lucci aged out of state-funded services. “That’s when reality set in,” according to her mom, Suellen. “We wanted to keep her on her developmental trajectory, but our neighborhood school psychologists just didn’t seem to understand her issues or what she needed to progress. For parents of older special needs children, the system can be very intimidating and it’s not easy to navigate.”

Lucci’s parents investigated various public, private and parochial schools.  For a while, Lucci tried a preschool with structured programs, but that didn’t work well for her.  “We were terrified,” admits Suellen, “but we were determined to find the right services in the right educational environment for her.  We wanted a school model that fit Lucci’s needs and embraced the unique person that she is.  We didn’t want to force her to be someone that she isn’t.”

Just when they felt they might be running out of options, Suellen and her husband attended a school fair and learned about The Hope Institute Learning Academy, a unique Chicago, contract school dedicated to the responsible inclusion of special needs students in an optimized, general educational environment. HILA’s mission – to educate boys and girls of all abilities and learning styles – seemed like a great fit for Lucci.

Suellen was amazed at how eager HILA’s enrollment specialist was to discuss how teachers and therapists would approach Lucci’s special needs.  And when she came to the HILA’s open house, Suellen says, “I knew in 10 minutes that it was the perfect school for my daughter.”

“HILA spent the time to really understand Lucci’s individual, specific needs and created a plan to address them in a spirit of openness and willingness we found at no other school,” Suellen explains. “I was so relieved that we didn’t have to explain a thing. The IEP process moves so smoothly and the teachers and therapists say ‘we’re all a team working for Lucci.’  At HILA, everything is done to help each and every child celebrate their own talents and uniqueness.”

Today, Lucci tests at or above grade level on all of her skills.  She has greater self-confidence and her social skills are blooming.  In fact, Lucci’s done so well at HILA in her first two years, she may not need any special educational supports in second grade.

Your generous support of The Hope Institute makes Stories of Hope – just like Luciana’s – possible for so many children, every day.  Thank you for opening your heart to the needs of Hope’s children.

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At Hope, we support children and families to achieve optimum growth, independence and joy.


The Hope Institute

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Springfield, IL 62712