Nick Gilson loves books.
He will sit on the couch with a huge pile and read each one.
When he’s in a store, and has the opportunity to pick out something special for himself, he usually picks a new book, said his mother Lisa Gilson.
That’s especially exciting to Nick’s parents’ Lisa and Ken.
Over the last two years — as many students struggled with school during the COVID-19 pandemic —Nick, 12, has made huge strides.
“It’s really cool to see the changes,” Lisa said. “He’s made a lot of progress. He likes to learn now!”
Diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism, Nick is homeschooled. He uses some words to communicate but also uses sign language and an AAC Device —an Accent 1000 communication device that runs the LAMP Words for Life app.
As he approached middle school, Lisa began looking for additional educational support. Nick’s longtime Service Coordinator, Laura Middleton, helped connect her with New Spring Education, and his tutor Shae Miller.
Shae and Nick are a great match, Lisa said. Since he started working with her, Nick has been very motivated to work on his reading, spelling and writing.
He and Shae are now regulars at the Pataskala Library and Nick is proud to have his own library card.
Over the last few years, Nick has made other positive changes.
When he was younger, he had such low muscle tone, he used a wheelchair most of the time. But with support from his family, he changed his diet and started spending more time outside and going on walks with his dog, Lizzy.
He doesn’t need the wheelchair anymore and has much more energy. He’s now able to go hiking with his family on vacation, which allowed him to explore a green sand beach in Hawaii and climb up to Clingmans Dome, the highest point of the Smoky Mountains, Lisa said.
He works hard to take care of Lizzy and loves to help his family cook. He enjoys biking and riding his scooter. He’s hoping to start playing baseball with the Miracle League of New Albany.
He’s learning how to use money to buy things, including ice cream at Costco, and save up for things he wants.
As their son approaches his 13th birthday, Lisa and Ken are excited about his future.
“We want him to learn to be as independent as possible,” Ken said.