When Luke Vande Griend was two years old, his mom said he would speak only two words. Instead of using words, Luke would point to what he needed or wanted. Concerned with his limited vocabulary, parents Allison and Derek tried to work as best they could with Luke on his language skills. That’s when frustration set in. 

“The more I tried to work with him, the more he and I became frustrated,” said Allison Vande Griend.

The Vande Griends called Northwest Area Education Agency and were introduced to Meg Otto, an Early ACCESS teacher from the AEA, and Lynn Cole, speech-language pathologist at the AEA, who got the ball rolling when Luke entered preschool at South O’Brien. They worked collaboratively with Luke’s preschool teacher, Mrs. Golden. 

“All of these individuals really made learning fun,” Allison stated. “I saw the excitement to want to learn things where we didn’t see that drive before with Luke.”

The Vande Griends believe the hands-on learning was what really excited Luke. The communication skills he built at this stage gave him confidence in the preschool classroom with new friends, some of whom also struggled.

“He really felt okay to be himself and that made him want to learn even more,” explained Allison.

Lynn Cole continued working with Luke until this school year when he graduated from speech therapy. The Vande Griends would encourage any parent who has a concern about their child to call the AEA. They say take action and don’t worry about what others will think. 

“I look back now and think how did I even worry about such a thing,” said Allison. “Society can be harsh but our children's future should outweigh any of society’s cruelties.”