“At every stage in Larry’s life, I would always worry,” says Ines Larkin, whose son Larry was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder at the age of three. Like many parents of children with special needs, Ines and her husband Charles worried about Larry’s social development and wondered if he would be able to make friends. “He did not talk,” Ines explains, “and if something happened that was different from his routine, he would get so upset. We were looking for support.”
Now, as a teenager, Larry’s social skills amaze other parents at Hillsdale High School, and his mom credits the support they found in E-Soccer, Hope Technology School, and Spiritual Resource Ministry.
The Larkins found E-soccer when Larry was four. E-Soccer was started by Russ Ewell as an inclusive soccer program for children with and without special needs. The inclusive sports environment helped Larry immensely. William Eleazer and Matt Delony, two typical kids who participated in E-Soccer, befriended Larry and played soccer with him every Saturday. They made a huge impact on Larry, beyond Saturday morning soccer games, and even after twelve years they are still involved in his life.
Discovering Special Needs Support
Through some friends, Charles and Ines heard about Spiritual Resource Ministry, a program during church services for children with special needs. “I’d be lying if I said I was looking for God,” says Ines. “I was looking for support!” Larry loved Spiritual Resource Ministry, and began to look forward to it.
Excited that her son found something he enjoyed, Ines began to bring him each week. In this program Larry learned to make more friends and had several “big brothers,” volunteers who enjoyed spending time with Larry and who are still mentors to him to this day. These friends helped Larry and also helped Ines find peace of mind and security that no matter what, her son would be well cared for.
Charles and Ines heard about the Hope Technology School a few years later, and decided to enroll Larry. “He grew so much there,” Ines says. “Moms tell me horrible stories about what their kids went through in middle school, and it was nothing like what Larry experienced. He loved his teachers, and his classmates were so patient with him.”
Even though now Larry still faces many challenges that come with having an autistic spectrum disorder, his life is an inspiring example to many others at Hillsdale High School. “Moms come up to me at his school and are amazed because Larry is so social,” explains Ines, “and this is because of all the support he has had in these different programs.”