Rocking the Runway… A Story of Hope
Joe is a 16-year-old boy with autism who uses sign language to communicate his wants and needs.
However, later this month he’ll rock the runway and let his legs do the talking.
Joe is one of eight Hope students who will take part in the 10th annual Style of Hope fundraiser fashion show. The event is scheduled for Thursday, March 19 at the lower level ballroom of the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield.
Students were required to audition for the show and Joe impressed the judges.
“We’re very excited for him. It will be his first time ever in a tuxedo,” said his mom, Becky.
“He has a smile that won’t quit and he really embodies the joy we want everyone to see our kids having,” said Joe’s teacher, Mr. Scott March.
Joe is nonverbal and his upcoming appearance on the runway is nothing short of amazing, especially considering his early challenges.
Joe was 4 months old when his grandparents adopted him. As a baby, Joe rarely slept, did not make eye contact and did not want to be held. He later began receiving physical and speech therapy through Texas Children’s Hospital. However, as he aged, his behaviors became more aggressive. His family believed he needed more intensive services and began to look for a place that could better meet his needs. After a two-year search, throughout the country, the family settled on The Hope Institute for Children and Families. The family wanted to be close to Joe, so that meant they would have to move from Houston, Texas to Illinois.
“We would move heaven and earth for Joe if we could; and by coming to Hope, we feel like that’s what we did,” Becky said.
“We wanted him to have absolutely the best, and we feel that’s what he has,” said his dad, John.
It took two years after the family moved for Joe to start attending Hope. Since his arrival, Joe has increased his use of sign language and improved his daily living skills, such as dressing himself before school. He has also been recommended to receive a trial tablet that uses a digital voice to communicate his wants and needs through the Illinois Assistive Technology Program.
“Joe proves what students can achieve when they receive the fundamental support to be successful,” said Hope President and CEO Clint Paul.
Despite being diagnosed with an intellectual disability, Joe is described as an avid reader with amazing comprehension abilities. Joe can also count money and delivers a snack cart to classrooms at The Learning Center. His teachers are focusing on expanding his vocational skills in hopes of increasing his independence as he ages into adulthood.
“It’s really been an inspiration for us to see him progress like he has,” Becky said. “Ultimately, we see him living at an adult group home and working at a job that’s fulfilling. I want him to fully participate in life, whenever and wherever he can.”
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