Kim and Neal Augustine share their inspiring journey as parents at Eagle Hill School (EHS) in their personal accounts.
It all started when their first-born, Alexa, entered EHS in third grade, progressing to eighth grade. The Augustines had planned for their children to attend the local public schools when they moved from New York City to Greenwich. However, these plans shifted when Alexa was diagnosed with a language processing disorder.
Fortunately, they discovered EHS, located conveniently in their community. They firmly believe that enrolling Alexa at EHS was instrumental in shaping her into the remarkable individual she is today.
It all started in third grade, our daughter Alexa attended Eagle Hill School (EHS) from third through eighth grade.
She was our first-born child and my husband and I moved out of NYC to raise our family in Greenwich, where we believed that all of our children would all attend the local public schools.
That notion quickly got derailed when Alexa was diagnosed with a language processing disorder. We felt fortunate that we found Eagle Hill right in our backyard! We have no doubt that the decision to send her there shaped who she is today.
As their motto states, it is life-changing.
Alexa spent six amazing years there and then transitioned to Greenwich High for her four years of high school. She made the decision to stay local as she didn’t want to attend a boarding school.
There were pros and cons to Greenwich High School (GHS). First, it is daunting with 650 students per grade, compared to the intimate school she had grown to love. The upside was that she could live at home and have the comfort she found there with her family; to this day, her favorite thing to do is spend time with her three younger siblings and two dogs.
However, GHS is well-equipped to help kids with learning differences. Because she had an IEP, they offered several accommodations which made school very manageable for her. The social aspect at such a large school is also tricky.
Alexa joined the track team, and had a very small group of friends, which was exactly right for her. She is an extremely conscientious, hard-working person with a very bright and happy disposition; we have always told her that those life skills will take her far in life—and they have.
The college process wasn’t as intimidating as we had imagined when she was younger. We did research with the help of Greenwich High, and found schools that had programs that supported learning differences, as we knew she would continue to need support through college.
We visited several schools in the Northeast because she knew she wanted to be close to home. She loved her visit to Curry College immediately and that quickly became her number one choice. Just like with all of our kids, learning differences or not… the hard part in the college process is waiting and hoping they get in!
Curry was an excellent school for Alexa. It was about the same size as her high school and she took full advantage of a program called PAL: Program for Advancement of Learning.
She found her place there, made great friends, and majored in Early Childhood Education. The decision on her major came easily, as it was aided by an internship she did while she was a senior in high school.
Each GHS senior is required to do a 6-week internship in a field they may be interested in pursuing. Alexa worked at her former preschool and discovered she loved working with young children.
Again, socially, college was challenging as Alexa is emotionally young for her age, and doesn’t fully understand or read social cues. She learned to navigate through the social issues for the first time, on her own.
As parents, we still think that was the hardest part of college for her. She was used to having her family there to lean on every day, and that was a hard transition.
Thankfully, she found a small group of friends, “her people,” which is always important in life. She got involved on campus and because it was small, she was friendly with many of her peers.
Looking back, of all of the incredible take-aways from EHS, the best thing she may have learned is to advocate for herself. She’s never afraid to ask for help.
Then came the job search: We remember stressing about how challenging it would be for her to find a job.
Alexa freezes when she has to answer questions on the spot. She gets nervous and her interviews were during Covid, when everything was on Zoom. In person, she’s much more comfortable. Even a reassuring smile puts her at ease.
That said, her conscientious work ethic and positive personality came through to Bright Horizons, a preschool/ daycare. They offered her a job as an assistant preschool teacher and have provided training hours for her to become a lead teacher.
She’s been there for two years now and is doing well. (Alexa, in a recent Zoom call, proudly added, “I’ve had four raises since I started here!”)
She has no accommodations at work, but there are instances where things come up and, like many of us, she isn’t always sure how to handle them.
Using her self-advocacy skills, she has been open with her coworkers about these unexpected situations. She has done well at her job and they appreciate that she is a very dedicated, hard-working, and flexible person who always has a smile and a positive outlook.
Alexa is living on her own in an apartment in Massachusetts now, and working in Cambridge. We talk to her at least four times a day. I don’t ever expect that to change.
She leans on us (my husband and me) a lot, but so do all of our kids. Alexa, a little more than the others. We are thrilled that she’s on her own, she’s happy, she has a great job and a nice boyfriend.
If you had asked us 10 years ago where we would see her when she was 25, we never would have predicted this. She used to joke with us that she would live with us her whole life and take care of us when we got old.
Now we wonder, will she still promise to be our caretaker?? If we can offer some insight that we wish we had been given at the start of Alexa’s journey, here is what we would have wanted to know.
We will add that these themes carry over to all of our children, not just the ones with learning differences, which makes you realize they aren’t so different after all!
Our family is stronger because of Alexa. It has been good for her younger siblings to see how hard she works, and she never complains. She is her siblings’ biggest cheerleader. She always sees the good in everyone and she brings so much joy and love to everyone she knows.