Frankie Lemmon School helps child with special needs, mom move forward
Posted October 30, 2011
Michelle Muchmore was already a busy mom with five teens and a full-time job when baby Kaden was born five years ago. And while a new baby will change anybody's life, Muchmore describes Kaden's birth as life altering.
Kaden has Down syndrome. It was a diagnosis that launched Muchmore on a new, exciting and sometimes overwhelming path as she began to understand the therapies he needs and the help he will require to do his best in life.
"I never knew how much work it takes," said Muchmore of raising a child with special needs. Today, she's getting much of the advice and help she needs from Kaden's school - the Frankie Lemmon School and Developmental Center in Raleigh. Frankie Lemmon School helps child with special needs, mom move forward
"Once we came here, it was like walking into your best friend's house for a cup of coffee and your kids are just going to play," she said.
The school is named after the son of Frank and Georgia Lemmon. Frankie Lemmon was born with Down syndrome in the 1960s. When he became of age for kindergarten, there was no school in the area who would accept kids like him.
So his father, the minister at Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church, and the congregation started one. Since 1965, the school has provided over one million hours of tuition-free education and support for children with special needs in the community. School staff emphasizes developing a student's communication skills and personal independence.
The school serves children ages 3 to 5 with special needs who live in Wake County. Children are placed at the school through Wake Country schools' preschool services.
Kaden was 2 1/2 when Muchmore first toured the school and says she immediately "fell in love with the whole learning environment." Here she found a place where Kaden wouldn't just learn basic life skills, but would be encouraged to grow to the next level.
"He has learned so much here at Frankie Lemmon. Things that I never thought were possible became possible," she tells me. "He can talk, sign, communicate and tell people what he needs and wants."
Muchmore shared her experiences with me as the school starts a new annual support campaign called "Creating Bright Futures." Started in mid-October, the campaign goal is to raise at least $100,000 over six weeks. In the inaugural campaign, the school is raising money to pay for an occupational therapist, smart boards and advanced training for teachers so they can better help students who have trouble communicating.
The school's long-term goal is to serve a greater number of children who would benefit from the program it offers, says Malcolm Thompson, chairman of the Frankie Lemmon School Board of Directors.
"Our vision is to become a recognized model for life-changing special needs education in North Carolina," he says.
For Muchmore, the school didn't just help her son. It helped her too.
Kaden will be prepared to head to the public schools next year thanks to the lessons he's learned at Frankie Lemmon, she says. But Muchmore says the school also has prepared her so she can ensure that he continues to get what he needs throughout his academic career.
"We'd keep him here forever," she tells me. "... It's just an amazing program."
For more information about the school and campaign, watch my video interview with Muchmore and go to its website.