Miriam helps high school senior Luke find his place and plan for the future
Until high school, Luke had been successful in a traditional public school setting. However, when he started ninth grade, things started to look and feel very different.
It was when his grades started slipping and he became socially isolated that Stacey, Luke’s mom, started exploring other high school options. “It’s important to Luke to feel connected and safe,” Stacey said. “His anxiety sky-rocketed, which not only impacted him academically, but also in his feelings of self-worth.”
A family friend recommended Miriam to Stacey, as their child had a positive experience at Miriam School. Her search for the best option – one that would help Luke reach his greatest potential – led her to select Miriam. He started in August 2019, his sophomore year.
“Immediately, he seemed less overwhelmed.”
Luke was able to adapt easily to the pace and environment at Miriam. He was receiving the academic support he needed in the classroom, Stacey said, as many of his accommodations were simply built into the school day by the nature of the class sizes and classroom setup.
While Luke still has some anxiety, Stacey said it is much less of a barrier because it presents situationally, rather than constantly. He found his place in school and feels confident, as well as understood and accepted by peers and staff. “He especially enjoys the connections he has with the staff,” Stacey said.
In fact, the high school staff are the favorite part of Miriam for both Luke and Stacey. “Luke and I both share the same joy of connecting with Miriam’s staff. We share opportunities to enhance, strengthen and stretch our efforts, discuss concerns, share super funny Luke stories, and talk about the future. It’s all about collaboration.”
Luke has also taken advantage of the speech/language therapy and social skills groups offered at Miriam, which have helped him when it comes to comprehension and processing skills, volume, tone/posture, and a growing understanding of perspectives.
“I’m enjoying seeing that Luke is internalizing those skills and seeing the importance of developing appropriate context and social dynamics when he
interacts with others,” Stacey said.
He feels safe enough at Miriam to explore some of the activities he enjoys, as well as try new ones. Luke has been involved with the multi-media studio, helping with production – and even being on-air – for MA TV. And this year, he decided to join the chess club, having never previously played the game.
The academic and emotional support Luke receives during classes gives him the tools to become a better learner. He’s more organized than he used to be, and has started thinking about the future. “I love that he’s becoming accountable and motivated to be involved in his future planning,” Stacey said. “Luke is challenged academically, but supported to succeed, so he can thrive.”
What are those future plans? Luke has applied to the University of Missouri – St. Louis SUCCEED Program for fall 2022, and he will likely take a summer class at St. Charles Community College. SUCCEED is a post-secondary program that provides an opportunity for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to develop the skills necessary to become participating members of their community.
Luke and Stacey are also looking into employment skills training programs. They have worked with Terri Pruitt, Associate Head for Transition
Services at Miriam, to determine a variety of options.
“Luke will do well in a program that is structured, with some supports in place. He’s likely not quite ready to navigate a college setting independently yet,” Stacey said. “He needs to develop a more robust set of self-advocacy skills.”
Ultimately, Luke would like to pursue a degree in computer science and become a video game developer.
He is able to feel confident and set goals for himself because of the services and support he has found at Miriam, Stacey said. He will graduate with a true foundation for success.
“Luke understands, inherently, that he is safe at Miriam. The culture is calm and comfortable, and he has been able to build from that and successfully complete high school. And that is everything.”