Josh Kydes, a rising high school junior, is frequently on the honor roll and an accomplished athlete, who is enjoying life and planning for college. His future is bright.

Things were not always so clear for Josh.

Cindy and Mark Kydes adopted Josh when he was 6 weeks old. He joined his sister, Brianna, and their family was complete. Josh was a happy and engaged toddler. But by age two, his speech and attention span weren’t on track. So Cindy and Mark enrolled him in the early learning program at Stratford public schools.

In first grade, Josh began experiencing hyperactivity. He was frequently removed from the classroom and isolated because of disruptive behaviors. Cindy and Mark grew increasingly frustrated as their son struggled. They had deep concerns regarding Josh’s difficulties with speech, reading and writing. And he wasn’t just missing out academically--his isolation was affecting his relationships with the other kids.

Trying to find the best solution for her son, Cindy reached out to the school principal. The principal connected her with our Director of Education, Liz Sellinger and Behavior Analyst, Katie Cyr at the Learning Academy. Cindy spoke from the heart about her aspirations for Josh: for school to be first and foremost a place where Josh was accepted, where he could connect with friends, where he could build his confidence in and out of the classroom.

Cindy spent a day at the Learning Academy meeting the staff and observing the classroom. She made a decision on the spot that this school felt right for Josh. Her mother’s intuition turned out to be spot on.

Cindy recalls that the team at the Learning Academy extended open lines of communication and continually made adjustments to Josh’s educational and behavioral supports. Using their expertise in special education and behavior analysis, they tailored solutions to Josh’s individual needs, building on strategies that worked and eliminating those that didn’t.

Josh attended the Learning Academy through fifth grade. He transitioned back to the public school in Stratford with continued support through our public school partnership program. By seventh grade, Josh was successful in school without external supports. He really hit his stride as a freshman in high school, when he joined the cross country and wrestling teams. Sports brought structure to his social life along with the chance to bond with his teammates.

Cindy and Mark both said that making the decision to enroll Josh in the Learning Academy and public school partnership program was “the best thing we ever did for Josh.” When we asked Josh what he liked best about his time at the Learning Academy, he smiled: “It was fun, we played games, we celebrated holidays, and we had dress up days and Fun Fridays.” He also had high praise for his former Learning Academy teacher, “Miss K is one of my favorite teachers, and really the best teacher I’ve ever had. She was nice, she was cool and very funny.”

Josh’s journey took the whole family on a new path too. Cindy changed careers to become an occupational therapist working with children with special needs. Josh’s sister, Brianna, has chosen OT as her field of study too. Cindy started a church group for children with varying abilities and parental support, which has become a family affair for all the Kydeses. Josh loves his role as a one-to-one buddy for kids struggling with some of the same challenges he experienced.

Today, Josh has been asked to captain both his cross country and wrestling teams this coming school year. He’s looking forward to finishing high school and finding a college where he can continue wrestling.  We are so grateful to him and his family for sharing his bright light, and their story, with us.

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