The Ching family moved back to St. Charles County after living in Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana and Florida. Tom and Beth are originally from here, but not their boys, Ryan and Justin.
The youngest son, Justin was born in Florida and at the age of 14, the whole family made the move back home. (Well, Tom and Beth’s home.) The move was hard for Justin. He was sad to leave his friends and the ocean.
Another difficulty was school. Not because he wasn’t accepted, but because he was expected to learn and do work. “The school in Florida stopped teaching Justin,” Beth said. “When we had our first meeting with his school case manager (in the Fort Zumwalt District), she looked at his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and asked, ‘where is the curriculum?’” Needless to say, Justin didn’t get along with her. “They fought like cats and dogs, because she would make him do the work,” Beth continued. “Finally, it all clicked. He started doing the work and realized he was capable of doing it. What he has accomplished since is just amazing.”
He currently attends Fort Zumwalt West High School and is in his fifth year. His mom calls him her “Super Senior.” His sophomore year, he was invited to participate in the Stars Dance Team, which is an all-inclusive dance team, and has been a member for four years. Members of the Jaguar Dance Team pair up with Stars members to show them choreography. His favorite part of the dance team, besides making friends, is the Hip-Hop dances and using the Pom-Poms. “All the kids on the dance team are wonderful,” Beth said. “They are very accepting – all the students are.”
The team dances during football and basketball games and during school rallies. “When they introduce the Stars Dance Team, the students go crazy,” Beth said. “It warms your heart. As his parents, we wanted to make sure Justin had a school experience similar to his brother. We let him do the things he likes, such as the dance team, going to Prom and Homecoming.”
Besides dance, Justin also plays soccer for SPENSA (Special Needs Soccer Association) in Fenton, and basketball and bowling through the Fort Zumwalt Special Olympics. He also enjoys watching the St. Louis Blues hockey team and playing computer games. His favorite class is Food and Nutrition. “The cooking class has helped him evolve in his eating,” Beth said. “When he was younger he had a limited selection of food he would eat. The class helps him try new things.”
He also attends the Social Opportunities and Recreation (SOAR) summer camp and winter break camp. “He gets a lot out of SOAR,” Beth said. “He enjoys it.” At camp, he enjoys swimming and field trips. “If it weren’t for the opportunities he has now, he would hold himself up in his room,” Beth said. “These opportunities make it easier for him to feel comfortable talking to others. He can talk to other kids that have disabilities and it’s comforting, which makes it more comfortable to talk to others.”
This past summer he didn’t get to attend camp as much as he would have liked because he also participated in STEP (Summer Teen Employment Program), where he worked at Gordmans. “I put price tags on candles,” Justin said. He also stocked items. He does plan to continue with STEP next summer.
After the success of the STEP program, the family tried a school to work program; however, it wasn’t for Justin. “It taught us a lot of things,” Beth said. “It ruled some things out and made it easier to decide what he wants to do. It’s a fine program, it just wasn’t for him. It was a learning experience for us all.”
His family continues to look into opportunities for Justin, but for now, they want Justin to live life and have fun – to be a teenager. “To us, he’s still our kid,” Beth said.