Amber Lynch’s favorite color is “lello” and she sings “Jingle Bells” all year long. Some of her classmates call her “Amburger” because they can’t say her name.
Fellow student Courtney Holden has worn out the blinking red lights in her tennis shoes. The dark-eyed flash hops from slide to toy car to play vacuum cleaner in a single bound. The word “hyper” doesn’t cover her.
Brian Gately sits quietly in his “stroller on steroids.” He laughs when his fuzzy green battery-powered dinosaur roars. He can’t walk.
Along with 46 other children, these three North Side kids will graduate Friday from the Spokane Guilds’ School and Neuromuscular Center. They’ll wear mortar boards made of black construction paper and white yarn tassels. Most of the kids are 3 years old.
“Their parents have normal moments just like any other parents,” said Karen Krei, development director at the center. “They have graduation, just like any other parents.”
The center, at 2118 W. Garland, serves up to 200 kids a year who have cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and other developmental delays.
Under state law, the students either go into special-needs programs or into regular school after they reach the age of three.
Amber and Courtney have both tested into regular classroom situations.
Ron Jenks, Amber’s grandfather, said the child’s transition in the past two years is amazing. Amber’s grown from a quiet, zombie-like child who had trouble talking and problems moving, to a terror who jumps down slides and leaps with no fear.
“I will do whatever I can for the Guilds’ School because they have really brought this little child around,” Jenks said. “She used to sit and stare. She couldn’t talk. She had no strength. It was tough for her to get around.”
Now, Amber is headed for a regular classroom.
Courtney is going to the New Messiah Developmental Christian Preschool. She started at the Guilds’ School in October. Courtney is small for her age and extremely hyperactive, with problems stemming from her birth mother’s use of drugs and alcohol, said Judy Holden, Courtney’s adoptive mother.
In pigtails and tennis shoes, Courtney bounces off the floor, but she doesn’t stop. Her mantra is “Ow.” She can sit through only half a Disney movie at a time.
Since entering the Guilds’ School, Courtney has learned to be away from her family and adjusted some to being with other children.
“She’s talking more clearly, and I hesitate to say she’s a little more social,” Holden said. “One of our major concerns is her behavior problems.”
Brian started at the Guilds’ School when he was three months old. He has strawberry blond hair and unusual bright eyes that change from gray to hazel. He wears Mickey Mouse tennis shoes.
His favorite toy is the noisy green dinosaur with the bright pink tongue, a Christmas gift from his aunt. He entertained the adults for hours over the holidays.
“He’d laugh so hard when it was roaring, he couldn’t breath,” said Lonna Gately, Brian’s mother. “He’d have to catch his breath.”
Brian has congenital cytomegalvirus, a viral infection like the flu, that his mother caught when pregnant. The virus has little effect on people who aren’t pregnant. In Brian, it caused severe brain and liver damage, an enlarged stomach and spleen, and vision problems.
This summer, Brian will go to therapy at St. Luke’s Hospital. He’ll enter the preschool program in District 81 in the fall. The people at the Guilds’ School won’t be forgotten, Gately said.
“We love them,” she said. “They’re wonderful people. We’re going to miss them terribly.”
Students do double duty
Seven North Side high school students are celebrating two graduations this week - from high school and Spokane Falls Community College.
Two years ago, they joined the Running Start program, an outgrowth of legislation from 1990 that allows students to attend college classes and receive high school and college credit at the same time.
They’ll pick up their associate of arts degrees Friday.
For many students, this means they can join four-year colleges at the junior level.
Mead High School sent five students through the program - Ben Dyer, Allen Faulkner, Julie Fountain, Rebekah Lima and Lorraine Salanik.
Samie Hallam graduated from college and North Central High School. Niki Strickland graduated from college and Shadle Park High School.
Convertibles at Cooper
The convertibles in the third-grade hall at Cooper Elementary recently weren’t breaking any school codes, walls or floors.
They were floats for the grade’s own Lilac Parade. Third-grade students painted the cars and designed the costumes for their own princesses.
The first place car and rider won gigantic candy bars.
This year’s princess winners were:
First place: Andrea Morales.
Second place: Annette Ruskovich.
Third place: Pader Moua.
This year’s car winners were:
First place: Bryce Anderson.
Second place: Chet Parker.
Third place: Adam Walker.
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