Challenges no match for Oak Forest student’s can-do approach
BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI Correspondent March 8, 2013 11:22AM
Cameron Kidd, 18, a senior in Oak Forest High School’s DESTINY program for students who are cognitively delayed. Kidd won six gold and three silver medals in Special Olympics. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 12, 2013 6:02AM
Cameron Kidd isn’t the kind of student who likes putting pen to paper. He’s a man of action who likes hands-on projects.
In fact, he rarely puts pen to paper at all.
When Kidd communicates, he does so through gestures, vocalizations, sign language and quite often by using a speech application called Proloquo2go on his iPad or iPod Touch.
Kidd, 18, is a senior in Oak Forest High School’s DESTINY program for students who are cognitively delayed. There are 27 students in the program, many of whom have Down syndrome, seizure disorders, cerebral palsy or another cognitive disability.
In May, Kidd will graduate from DESTINY, receiving not a diploma but a certification that he completed the program.
Despite his disability, Kidd is an inspiration to others, as he works hard to contribute to his school and community.
He helps with the recycling collection program at school, takes homeroom attendance and brings that information to the main office. He also refills vending machines in the cafeteria.
“He has given presentations about the DESTINY program at the District 228 Board meeting and at the Southwest Cooperative board meeting. He has been nominated for and recognized by Infinitec Southwest for the use of his communication device,” said Karen Annichiarico, a speech pathologist at Oak Forest High School.
Kidd has been communicating with the iPad for about 18 months.
“It has been a slow process,” said Annichiarico, explaining that Kidd regularly uses the calendar application and a folder called ChitChat that has basic questions programmed into it for his convenience. It allows him to ask questions quickly by calling up basic queries, such as “How was your weekend?”
He excels in Oak Forest’s Bengals Helping Bengals program, in which general education students earn credit for assisting DESTINY students in a gym class.
“It is awesome,” reported Kidd, the son of Jacquelyne Guy and Thomas Kidd.
This is the first year for the Bengals Helping Bengals program, which was carefully developed with the help of two special-education teachers and DESTINY staff members Liz Wegner and Julie Priestman, working with Paige Stryczek, a general-education teacher.
“This is the first year we’ve had general-education students helping DESTINY students in a very organized and supportive way. Many of the kids participating in the program want to go into some form of special education,” Annichiarico said.
Kidd also takes part in Special Olympics. He won six gold and three silver medals in the basketball, ball throw and walker race events. He has attended summer swimming classes and summer camp and plays basketball in the winter.
At his church, Christ Bible Center in Markham, he is an usher and attends Sunday school. There, he often will fill in for the church’s usual drummer.
“I like playing the drums at church,” Kidd said. “I like it because I like music so much.”
He is also part of the Young Men’s department, going on outings with the group. He earns some money each week helping with church clean-up as well.
“One of the things that we admire about Cameron is that he is always willing to try something new. He is very social and everyone from the kids in school to the staff know him. He also pays attention to a lot of details,” said Annichiarico, pointing out that Cameron always knows when the recycling bins need to be emptied.
“He is a student who likes to be on the move,” she said. “He is not a pencil-and-paper type of person. He has a very supportive extended family and rarely misses school.”
Despite the fact that he needs a walker to get around, he is physically fit and is a stickler for eating well.
“He’ll let people know if they are not eating healthy foods,” Annichiarico said.