Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Finding Independence While Spreading Joy and Positivity: Kate’s Story

Student Success Profile: Kate Michael

When Kate Michael entered First Children (formerly Children’s Specialized Hospital) in April 2006, creeping was her primary means of mobility.  She used a walker with supervision to navigate her classroom environment. She spontaneously made circular movements on paper with a crayon but was unable to imitate any “pre writing” strokes.  She presented with severely impaired motor skills for speech and nonspeech tasks. 

Her receptive language skills were moderately impaired and characterized by following familiar one step commands.  Her expressive language skills were severely delayed.  She used vocalizations, gestures, several signed single words and facial expressions to communicate her needs.  She had difficulty imitating speech and nonspeech oral motor movements.  All the above impacted on her ability to participate in classroom activities.   Physical, occupational and speech therapy services supported her educational program.  Teacher of the Deaf services were introduced and provided. 

Kate started working with a Teacher of the Deaf for 1:1 reading support at the age of 8.  At that age, she could expressively sign 2–3-word phrases.  She read at a K-1st grade reading level.  She would typically imitate questions and had little spontaneous language.  Thanks to intensive Teacher of the Deaf supports and speech therapy, she has become a fluent reader and signer.  She expresses herself using sign language and speech.  She answers questions with ease and even began teaching a sign language class to staff at First Children School.  

As Kate has reached high school age, occupational therapy services have been primarily consultative to her vocational-related and transitional programming. OT has collaborated with her team to help create strategies and supports, such as a laminated daily schedule or a reminder sheet for editing her writing. Using these, Kate has increased her level of participation and sense of agency during tasks.  In doing so, she has increased her self-confidence and self-reliance.  

Being one of the oldest (20 yrs) students in our school, Kate has been a part of our vocational program for several years, and she was our first student in our L.I.F.T. transitional program for young adults where we focus on life skills, independence, and employment readiness. Throughout her time in the L.I.F.T. program, she has gained so many incredible skills in different areas, but what is most impressive is her newfound confidence, willingness to advocate for herself, and her ability to express herself and push for communication even when it can be difficult for her.  

Previously, Kate really struggled with thinking she wasn’t able to do things on her own and because people didn’t always understand her, she was hesitant to initiate communication, or try to problem-solve if there was a breakdown in communication. Now, every day, Kate presents herself as a strong woman who is not only confident in her abilities, but also knows how to request assistance if she needs it. Her love of socializing now extends to a much larger community of people as she has not only increased the number of ways she can communicate, but she is more determined to share her ideas and be heard. 

She has had incredible success in developing her skills in a home, the community, and in a worksite. There are many homecare tasks that she will complete entirely independently, she practices safety and awareness in the community, she navigates all different settings very efficiently, and she has developed a confidence and professionalism that anyone would benefit from in a work setting. Not only has she mastered assisting in on-site work placements, she has secured and successfully completed work placements in the surrounding community, and her employers always praise her commitment and positivity so highly. Some of Kate’s favorite work so far has been in utilizing technology and professional apps, which she excels at, and in spreading her love of sign language to new learners through her weekly beginners’ classes. Kate has become a warm and welcoming young woman who spreads joy and positivity in every situation and who has found a confidence in herself that we should all strive for. 

Kate’s mother, Janet is grateful for the support Kate has received since she started at First Children School and cannot thank the team enough for their dedication to providing Kate an environment where she and her peers can thrive. 

“At age three, with multiple medical needs, mobility issues and profound hearing loss, there was no school program available to accommodate all of Kate’s needs. It was such a hopeless and frustrating experience to be turned away again and again while trying to find a place to educate our child.  Childrens Specialized Hospital School, now First Children School, not only accepted the challenge, but embraced it and ran with it!  Dr. Ellen D’Amato who has been with us since the very first day, understood Kate’s needs, and has always been a wonderful liaison between the school and the district.  She saw the opportunity to develop a program for “deaf plus” students and now First Children has set itself apart with a dedicated program to provide all the specialized services required for this unique student population.   

Kate has flourished at First Children School.  Her amazing therapists, teachers, and administration have responded to every challenge, and have always functioned as a true Team with us and the district to provide an education tailored to her specific needs.  I could never have imagined when I dropped off my baby so many years ago for her first preschool day – that she would become the bright, communicative, independent and confident young woman who works in the school store, office and teaches sign language classes for staff!  

As we prepare for graduation, the thought of leaving our First Children School Family is overwhelming for sure.  Kate has been loved and nurtured there as if it was her second home.  We too have learned to rely on the expertise of the professionals there. But although the separation will be difficult, I believe that she will always be connected to First Children.   Her experience there helped make Kate the extraordinary woman she has become, and she will carry those gifts and skills with her into the world – and we will be forever grateful.”