“Even the Smallest Little Thing Can Have a Positive Impact on the Life of a Student.”
When Logan De La Cruz was an infant, his mother Kolette kept track of every milestone he hit - sitting up, crawling, his first few words were all noted and checked off.
But at around 18 months of age, Logan started losing his verbal skills, and she recalled looking into his eyes one day and asking herself, “where did my son go?”
“When he began to regress, I was very afraid. I felt he had left me completely. I knew something was wrong,” said De La Cruz, an AP at Crestwood Elementary School in Springfield.
It wasn’t long afterwards that her young son, who by then was completely nonverbal and self injurious, was diagnosed with autism. All of a sudden, the future plans that she had for her family shifted.
She added, “We didn’t know what lay ahead for Logan but we learned quickly that early intervention was critical and we set out to do all we could to support our son.”
For Logan, that meant on the day after his second birthday he took the bus to Deer Park Elementary School in Centreville where for the next three years he attended Fairfax County Public Schools’ Preschool Autism Class (PAC) seven hours a day, five days a week
Slowly but surely through intensive therapy, his speech began to return. His first new word? “Omosudis”, a deep sea creature that piqued his interest in marine biology, a passion that has stayed with him throughout his 18 years.
Logan went on to attend both Centreville Elementary School and Colin Powell Elementary School. From first grade onwards he attended a mainstream class where he was bolstered by a special ed support assistant.
In second grade, his family sat with him as they explained what his condition was and how it affected his development and caused the quirks of his behavior that they dubbed ‘Loganisms.’
The determined little boy, then aged seven, read a book to his classmates to explain all about autism and why his behavior may seem a little different to a neurotypical child?. De La Cruz stood at the back of the classroom and remembers having a tear in her eye.
With the dedication of caring staff, Logan started to excel academically while continuing to receive additional therapeutic support in other areas of his development. Making social connections and learning life skills that should come naturally, presented a greater challenge. But from case workers, speech therapists and psychologists to teaching staff and administrators, all have played a role in his growth.
De La Cruz said, “Every single teacher and staff member that he came into contact with, gave something to Logan. And it showed that even the smallest little thing you do can have a really positive impact on the life of a child.”
Logan progressed through Liberty Middle School in Clifton and then on to Centreville High School.
His senior year was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic but virtual learning suited him and he made sure to take part in all the traditional rights of passage such as prom, all-night grad party, and the senior car parade.
Through his journey with FCPS, teachers and staff consistently worked to support Logan in the least restrictive environment while meeting his needs as a child on the autism spectrum who had a passion for science. FCPS teachers and staff "supported Logan socially with student buddies in the class and in the Boys Club Social Skills Group," De La Cruz said.
“They allowed him to be himself and encouraged him to build autism awareness within his classrooms,” she said “They taught him how to express himself in appropriate ways and advocate for himself as a learner. Most of all, they loved him and encouraged him to be the best version of himself. My son is amazing and the amount he has learned and grown is phenomenal.”
In June, Logan raised his hands in the air in celebration as he walked across the stage at the Jiffy Lube Live concert venue, graduating with a 4.0 GPA and wearing a Centreville Scholar Medal.
He was accepted into four universities and hopes to pursue a career in marine biology. For the time being, he will attend Northern Virginia Community College to allow him to work on the transition to independent living.
“He is where he is today because of a collective effort of all school staff who care deeply for the students and families they support,” said his mother. “We are proud FCPS Parents.”
Her son’s hope for the future is simple: “Logan just wants to be accepted for who he is.”