“Four years ago, he didn’t know what the number 3 was,” mom Baker said.
Savance is autistic. He was diagnosed at age 3, but no one knew what to do to help him.
“How would he function? How would he make a living?” she asked herself. Before he attended the Cleveland City Schools, all Savance did all day in the other schools was color. He didn’t learn anything. He was bored to tears. “The school systems he was in were little help,” Baker adds.
That’s when she decided to take action.
She did her own research and tried to find help and answers.
That’s also when Baker decided to move back to Cleveland to be closer to family. It turns out that this move was fortuitous — particularly fortuitous. The reason is the great quality of special needs education that Baker found for her son in the Cleveland school system.
“He has just progressed tremendously,” Baker’s mom, Debbie Baker, said. “He has blossomed with the (Cleveland schools). It has really made a big difference. Think of all that time that was wasted!”
Savance started at E. L. Ross Elementary and is now in sixth grade enrolled at Cleveland Middle School.
“I love math,” Savance said. But he also loves art.
After only four year, Savance is a wonderfully functioning young man, his mom said, all due to the wonderful special needs programs in this area.
“I was not used to this level of involvement by the schools,” Bianca Baker said. “It totally amazed me. Savance speaks with clarity now.”
In fact, when his grandma Debbie comes to visit, Savance asks her: “So Grandma, how was your day today?”
“Autistic kids don’t form sentences,” Debbie Baker said. “He also recognizes letters and 50 words. Savance can also write his own name.”
That’s why Savance’s family and friends wanted to give back, as well as gratefully thank, the folks who helped Savance make such dramatic progress.
Two types of special needs classes available through the Cleveland City Schools are the comprehensive development class and extended resource class. Five schools in the local system have 13 classes for ages 5 through 22. The specific special needs the students and teachers deal with include: ADD & ADHD, autism, retardation, Downs syndrome, visual impairment, traumatic brain injuries, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and multiple disabilities.
Cleveland High School also has a new sensory room that provides a variety of important activities specifically directed to children with special needs. It is one of only two in the entire state of Tennessee.
But Baker didn’t stop at finding the right schooling for Savance. She also took her son to a dietitian in Savannah, Ga., who specializes in the proper regimen of vitamins and supplements for children like Savance who have autism. Now he doesn’t take any drugs at all.
“I wish other moms knew other options were out there,” Baker said.
That’s when — as well as why — Savance’s relatives and friends decided to hold a fundraiser this Saturday to raise money for special needs kids and to pay tribute to the teachers and the special needs programs that helped turned Savance’s life completely around.
Nancy Brown and Debbie Baker, sisters, as well as aunt and mom to Bianca Baker, friend Martha Hunt, who owns Martha’s Cupboard Gift Shop, and great-grandma to Savance, Martha Schlueter, were the principle forces behind putting this fundraiser together.
A booth fair will be held featuring a dozen or more vendors between noon and 6 p.m. at the outdoor pavilion at the Ocoee Winery and Martha’s Cupboard Gift Shop at 5365 Waterlevel Highway, three miles east of Cleveland on U.S. Highway 64. The pavilion is covered so the booth fair will be held rain or shine.
Visitors will also be able to bid on special baskets provided by each vendor, along with a grand basket with items from all the vendors. All raffle ticket money — along with 100 percent of the commissions from the vendors — will go directly to the special needs programs at the schools. A total of 11 vendors will be selling a variety of items, including jewelry, Pampered Chef kitchenware, Mary Kay and Arbonne makeup, purses and other accessories, Longeberger baskets, Tupperware, photography, artwork and oil paintings.
But information on helping others with autism and their families will also be available. And Savance’s mom, Bianca, and her mom, aunt, cousin and friends will also be there to help.
“I’m sure it will help other kids,” Baker said.
Even Savance is helping. He will be displaying some of his beloved artwork at the fair as well.
Local radio station WQMT 93.9-FM also will be doing a live broadcast from the booth fair between 3 and 6 p.m. Baker used to work for the station as an on-air DJ.
“I’m grateful to everyone,” Savance’s mom said. “My mom, my aunt, my sister and my friends showed me what to do. They showed me where to go. Everyone needs such a wonderful support group.”
If this year’s booth fair goes well, they will try to have one every year.
“We just hope everybody comes out and celebrates the day with us,” said Bianca Baker.
For more information, call Martha at the gift shop at 503-9022. Or for donations, e-mail Debby Baker at email@example.com.