Teachers and technology give special needs child a voice

HOMEWOOD, Ill. (WLS) -- Raising a special needs child presents its own set of challenges for parents and caretakers alike. So when someone goes above and beyond to help your child, you want to show your appreciation.

This mom was so elated at the progress that her son had made that, she wanted the teachers to get a little recognition for what they did for their family. It's a chance to say 'thanks' to all the teachers who find a way to reach children who need just a little more attention.

Twelve-year old Quinn McNellis has come a long way in just a short time. Quinn is a special needs students living with Down's syndrome. And his mother says these instructors have given him a whole new life.

"When you child can't tell you their feelings with their words he shows me with him emotions and how he feels and he likes being here and he feels surrounded by people who really do care about him," says Julie McNellis.

At the Millennium School in Homewood, with teacher Kathy Call and assistant Terry Hammond, they hve been using a special iPad since the beginning of the year to help Quinn learn to communicate with classmates and his family. Julie said knew they'd have their hands full with her strong-willed little boy.

"He will try to beat you down and that's what I said when I first met her. I said 'Good luck!' She said 'I'm tough!' I'm like 'he may be tougher!" she says.

"He wasn't a very happy young man and he reminded me more of a toddler. He would kind of let us know what he needed or when he was not liking something by crying or being upset. Using the iPad and learning these words basically what I told him is using his voice. This is his voice now," says Call.

And what a voice it is. In a few short months, Quinn went from being barely able to interact to talking non-stop with the help of his teachers and his new device which they had re-programmed just for him.

"It makes it much easier for him. We can to go a restaurant and he has on his iPad, 'I want a diet Coke, cheeseburger and fries. He can order for himself. It gives him his little independence," says Julie.

It also gives him the freedom to hang with friends like his brother Nolan.

Quinn did so well so quickly that he recently received the "outstanding student technology award" from the Southwest InfiniTec Coalition. He got to make a speech and tell his favorite joke.

Now they all can see who Quinn really is.

"To be able to have that life and be able to communicate with friends in his classroom and adults, and not only for his needs and wants but his personality as a human being; it doesn't get any better than that," says Hammond.

"It's the most wonderful thing to see a child's light bulb go off and that's what we did and we opened up a world for him. It's the best thing I could have ever seen. 'It's beautiful thing.' It is. It really is," says Call.

It's just one example of what dedicated teachers, working with parents, can accomplish. Quinn is a prime example and his mother Julie urges all parents to be their child's number one advocate.

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