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Parent Spotlight: Amanda & Dylan VonKleist

Updated: Sep 11, 2019


Amanda and Dylan VonKleist are originally from Southern California. The couple met and began dating in high school. They dated for seven years before deciding to marry. A few years later Tanner was born. Just before his second birthday, Tanner was diagnosed with ASD. It was a very difficult time for the VonKleist family.

“We had very little understanding of what autism was and even less understanding of where or how to seek help,” says Amanda. “We were lucky to connect with services that introduced us to terms like ABA therapy, and many wonderful people began to enter our lives.

In September of 2012, an opportunity to move to Colorado presented itself. At the time, picking up and leaving everything they knew was both scary and exciting. “The thought of a new life in a different state was something we really never had thought about,” says Amanda. “But immediately Colorado began to feel like home, and after just over a year after we arrived in Colorado, Teagan was born, and our family finally felt whole.” Tanner gained a little sister (exactly one day before his 7th birthday).

Why the Joshua School?

“Becoming aware of TJS was pure coincidence, perhaps divine intervention, we’ll never know,” says Amanda. During a therapy session at Front Range Hippotherapy, Amanda had a conversation with a fellow special needs parent whose son was wrapping up his session. As the two mothers chatted TJS was mentioned and that immediately became “the dream”.

“Tanner's current placement at a public school in the St. Vrain Valley School District was not working out. He had stopped making much progress in both academic and life skills, plus we were concerned about their ability to keep him safe,” Amanda continues.

“During several meetings, we tried to work with the school district to find a more suitable placement for Tanner. When no progress was made, it became obvious that TJS would provide him the best opportunity to grow and thrive.”

Tell us about your TJS experience.  What stands out the most for you and your child?

From the first day, it was apparent to the VonKleists that TJS is where they were supposed to be. Tanner immediately took a liking to the campus, the staff, and the caring nature of everyone with whom he and his parents interacted.

Unlike other programs, IEP meetings were now focused on positive growth; more about what Tanner was doing well and how to build on those things, not what areas he was falling behind in. The process was collaborative. “Teachers asked us to be a part of the creation of goals and worked with us on more than just academics,” says Dylan. “We defined goals for life skills and things that would help Tanner thrive. Such a drastic departure from the world of special education we had known before.”

Dylan and Amanda emphasize that what truly stands out is how happy Tanner is at TJS.” It is more than a school to him,” says Dylan. “It’s a place that he enjoys going and a place full of friends and people who genuinely care about him - and he cares deeply about them. The progress he has made in his time at TJS is astounding.”

What are your favorite things about TJS?

“TJS feels like a family or an extension of our family,” says Amanda. “ All the teachers, paras, and administrators are always there for us. Even those staff members that are not a part of Tanner’s team or daily routine are still a key part of his growth. They are truly invested in Tanner’s growth.” Words of inspiration and encouragement for other parents?

A quote the VonKleists recently read stated: “A developmental delay is a comma, not a period.”

“This quote reminds us that no matter how slow progress may come or how difficult some days can be, progress is always possible,” say the couple. “With the incredible resources and amazing people of TJS on our side we know now, more than ever, how true these words are.”

Both Amanda and Dylan admit that it has taken work. “It would be dishonest to say that every day at TJS has been easy,” says Dylan. “There are still challenging days where we feel discouraged. The difference now is, we know we have a team of educators who are on this journey with Tanner, with us, and firmly committed to making every day the best it can be for him.”


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