Monday, February 7, 2011

New, intensive program working miracles with 5-year-old DominicDiGiallonardo's autism

POLSON - Like a pint-sized presidential candidate, Dominic DiGiallonardo struts his 5-year-old self through the halls of Polson Middle School.

As he roams the corridors encountering staff and students, he confidently greets people by name and stops to shake their hand.

Custodians turn off vacuum cleaners to welcome the youngster, and in return they receive a compliment from the little guy.

"Hi Mike," Dominic says to one member of the cleaning crew. "Good work."

So charming is the blue-eyed boy, a passel of seventh-grade girls stop their lip-gloss applications and locker decorating to smother him with attention.

This is not a rare occurrence, insists the little star's older brother. "The girls really love him," says 12-year-old Danny DiGiallonardo.

As he moves on to greet more people, Dominic's jaunty gait - sometimes on tiptoes, sometimes a wee bounce - shares a remarkable likeness to Winnie the Pooh's friend, Tigger.

There's so much joyful exuberance in this little person, the kindergartner's presence brings smiles to all who encounter him.

Watching as his brother cheerfully chats with the girls, Danny smiles, too.

With a maturity beyond his years, he says quietly, "Dominic used to be a huge challenge. Now I don't even think of him as a kid with autism, as a special ed kid because he's improved so much."
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