A child’s voice is music to a parent’s ears. But, for some parents that music falls silent. Without customized therapy many children with autism and other neurological disorders become unable to communicate at all.
The Good Shepherd Catholic School at Mercy – established fall 2011, thanks to a partnership between Mercy, University of Central Oklahoma and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City – is making progress that some parents never expected. Seven students are currently enrolled, with three more set to start next month.
“One of our four-year-old students recently looked at his mother and made the ‘mamama’ sound for the first time,” said Dr. Donna Kearns, principal at the Good Shepherd. “His mother was in tears telling me about it. Those are the kinds of moments that remind us of the important work we’re doing and the progress we’re making.”
Another parent, Sean Small, said his son, Nathan, 3, is starting to communicate better, thanks to curriculum and one-on-one attention at the school.
“It’s been phenomenal,” said Small. “He’s able to articulate what he wants.”
The three organizations form “a partnership in heaven,” in the words of Sister Catherine Powers, CND, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Good Shepherd Catholic School at Mercy is accredited by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City; UCO trains behaviorists and provides assistance with staffing and Mercy provides the facility. The program is funded in part by a loan from the Inasmuch Foundation.
“The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City is pleased to be a part of such a unique and special collaboration. To my knowledge, there is no other Catholic school in the country that is geared toward meeting the individual needs of children on the autistic spectrum,” said Sister Powers. “I have no doubt that we are meeting a great need.”
Once it reaches full capacity, The Good Shepherd Catholic School at Mercy will enroll approximately 20 students with autism or similar neurological disorders and approximately five neurotypical students, ages 3 to 9. Each student has a behavioral interventionist who provides individual attention throughout each day.
For more information on enrollment and to learn about ways to support the program, call Donna Kearns at 405-752-2264.