The Children's Institute Blog

Setting the Stage for Success

Posted: Nov 16, 2018 by The Children's Institute

Luke as Teyve as Fiddler on the Roof
Luke Martin, a senior at Blackhawk High School, is always adding something to his mother’s to-do list. Whether it’s celebrating another “last” before graduation or preparing for all the “firsts” of his anticipated college adventure, Luke is living the busy, fulfilling life his parents dreamed for him.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Luke was diagnosed with oral and tactile hypersensitivity at 18 months old and began receiving outpatient speech, functional feeding, and behavioral therapy services at The Children’s Institute in Squirrel Hill. At age 4, he was diagnosed with autism.

“When he was in his own little world, nothing we did could bring him out,” Luke’s mom, Darlene Martin, remembers. “When he was young, I didn’t believe that my hopes for his future would come true. But therapy services from an early age at The Children’s Institute had a dramatic impact. Luke’s therapists were so patient and so deliberate in providing treatment that encouraged his progress. They never treated him like something was ‘wrong” with him. Instead, they accepted him for who he was and saw what his potential could be.”

Luke received therapy at The Children’s Institute regularly until age 6, with reinforcing follow-up treatment a few years later at the former Greentree satellite location, which has since moved to become our Bridgeville satellite location. While he continues to face challenges with regard to eating and making close social connections, Luke is thriving. As a junior, he landed the lead in his high school musical, playing Tevye, the poor Jewish milkman with five daughters, in Fiddler on the Roof. He has also been accepted into the Ashbrook Scholar Program in Political Science at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.

“Luke would not be the person he is today without The Children’s Institute,” Darlene reflects. “He is going away to college next fall, and a part of me wants to keep him at home so I can protect him. But he is ready for me to let go. I know he is equipped to handle all kinds of challenges and opportunities today and into the future because The Children’s Institute took such care to ‘retrain his brain’ when it was still developing.”

In the meantime, Luke has exciting happenings the remainder of his high school senior year. Following tryouts for Blackhawk’s spring 2019 high school musical - Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka - Luke was again chosen as the lead of Willy Wonka. 

"I've worked here at Blackhawk for about 20 years and honestly cannot remember a student ever being picked two years as the lead. It's quite an accomplishment for Luke and will definitely challenge him to go from a serious character like Teyve in Fiddler to a 'silly' character like Willy Wonka. The play happens the first weekend in March - I cannot wait!" said Darlene.

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