Jonah's Legacy:
A child-centered program that stresses the importance of family 

In Memoriam

Jonah Chung

March 2001 - December 2020

Founding Student at The Creekside School

Jonah first set eyes on an escalator at a light rail station during a school trip to a shopping mall. On each succeeding excursion he would watch the moving stairs for extended periods of time. His body would rock back and forth and his face would light up as he reached over to feel the moving hand rail.

​Staff encouraged him to step onto the escalator, but each time he declined.

One day, he was ready.

As he gingerly stepped onto the escalator he began leaning back as though to put as much distance as possible between himself and the experience.

Meanwhile staff propped his upper body so he wouldn’t tumble down the escalator. As he neared the top he was filled with pride, and smiled broadly as staff celebrated his courage.

To passersby it may have seemed an odd place for high fives, but there was great reason to celebrate on the light rail platform that day.

Jonah’s experience of Creekside staff supporting his curiosity with patience and preparation is quintessential Creekside. Our students’ interests are central to their learning and staff build on those interests to help students develop important life skills for as safe and meaningful an adulthood as possible.

Jonah’s Legacy

Jonah began attending what would become The Creekside School long before it officially opened its doors in 2007. As such, he had a strong influence on the evolution of the school's educational philosophy.

From its earliest years the school followed the child-centered approach of DIR/Floortime where family and relationships are at the center of all therapies and interventions, and the focus is on validating the child’s feelings and increasing his understanding of his range of behaviors, rather than on suppressing or “fixing” behaviors.

Jonah's mother recalls, "Jonah was a small circle guy, mostly home and school. Jonah's school, The Creekside School, is a special place filled with dedicated, hard-working professionals. Creekside is family for us as they loved Jonah exactly how he was. Did he have bad days and really stretch them? Yes. Did they ever give up on him? No."

As with most young children, Jonah felt safest and best understood at home with his family, and felt especially connected to Mom. However, unlike neurotypical children, Jonah could not speak so he was not unable to express that love, or his wants and fears.

Recognizing Jonah’s profound sense of vulnerability when Mom was not around to communicate for him, Creekside staff worked patiently to validate his feelings. As he built relationships with the teaching staff and received reassurance that Mom would return, Jonah began to develop nonverbal means of communication and began to blossom at school.

As Creekside expanded in the ensuing years, it began to add other evidence-based methodologies to its program.

 

But the child-centered approach and the importance of family remain at the core of our program as manifested by our mission: To dramatically improve quality of life for our students and their families.

Jonah, As We Will Always Remember Him

One afternoon just five weeks before his passing, Jonah spent time during an occupational therapy session exploring a website where he could take snapshots of himself using a variety of filters.

This is the Jonah we will always remember: an intelligent young man of so many dimensions who was an inspiration to all who had the joy of working with him.

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