Overcoming Challenges

Student with cerebral palsy succeeds at St. John EmmanuelAt St. John Emmanuel Lutheran School, Nathan Wilhoff is a typical fourth grader. He climbs to the top of the playground equipment at recess. He shoots baskets and plays on the school team. What makes this story unique is that Nathan has cerebral palsy. For parents Steve and Heidi Wilhoff, the basketball team is just one example of how St. John Emmanuel Lutheran School goes out of their way for their son."This school has been so accommodating," Steve remarks. "Teachers coordinate care in a manner that's the best possible thing for him. Every time we come here, we're in awe."Although Nathan has made huge strides over the years, his life began with multiple complications compounded by a premature birth three and half months early.As an infant, Nathan was hooked up to machines and needed intense care everyday. Through therapies and medical interventions, Nathan's health slowly improved. However, when he was old enough to attend school, Steve and Heidi weren't sure how he'd manage things like the stairs or an intense schedule."We were concerned about whether he could handle school and wanted something one-on-one and Christian," Heidi adds. PB113635 1 300x214 Because Nathan deals with cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and ADD, they knew that he would need additional help. The Wilhoff family found that St. John Emmanuel not only provided additional assistance for Nathan, but went above and beyond in assisting him."There's never been a concern that we haven't had addressed," Steve adds. "The school listens and you know they care. There's a relationship here."This relationship shows up in multiple ways, including the staff's commitment to Nathan's success. Because he wears a hearing aid, his teachers wear a special modulator so Nathan can hear them. Nathan has also been assigned a special assistant who helps him in the classroom. According to his parents, the school has made accommodation after accommodation for their son.It's this small, caring environment at St. John Emmanuel that prepares Nathan for success, despite the challenges he faces. PB113605 150x150 "He's not just a number and face. We've never had the feeling that someone is just doing their job. The people here invest in him," Heidi adds.Even his classmates rally around him, helping him with simple tasks throughout the day. So when Nathan decided to play basketball this year, his parents supported his decision."The coach knew about Nathan's hearing issue and cerebral palsy," his mom adds. "He's so patient with him. It's the perfect environment."Despite his limitations on the court, Nathan is accepted as one of the team, shooting hoops alongside the other boys in his class."He's just included, "Steve says. "He's made to feel like any other kid."Because St. John Emmanuel provides a caring environment for students, families like the Wilhoffs can't say enough good things about the school. It's this atmosphere of compassion and acceptance that have helped Nathan thrive."As a Christian school, they live out what they believe," Heidi adds. "It's manifest in what they teach my son. It shows in his peers around him. There are certain things you see here that can't be taught. There's a sincerity."For St. John Emmanuel, this caring, Christ-centered environment seems part of the school's DNA, making a difference for students like Nathan."This foundation here at St. John Emmanuel will reap eternal dividends," Heidi adds. "They're investing gold in my son."