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Mark Petchey's very special ride

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The following article appeared in the August 24-30, 2000 issue of the Sonoma West Times & News

Mark Petchey’s very special ride

Going back to school is a monumental feat for Analy High accident victim

by Patty McAlpin, Sonoma West Staff Writer

SEBASTOPOL–Seventeen-year-old Mark Petchey will take his place among his peers at Analy High School next week to begin his senior year.

It has been one year and one month since the traffic collision that claimed Mark’s friend Max Lachman’s life and began Mark’s struggle to communicate with the outside world.

His parents Grahame and Hideko Petchey are looking forward to the day their son receives his high school diploma.

Grahame says with a smile, ”Mark skipped the fifth grade so he’s right on track.”

An orange school bus will take him to and from the high school where he will learn English literature (British) and computer. He may also take adaptive physical education at Santa Rosa Junior College where he exercised during the summer.

A new oversized special education classroom built over the summer as part of a school construction project will accommodate Mark’s physical needs along with several other full-inclusion students.

The full inclusion program started at Analy High in the 1998-99 school year. Full inclusion is a program for students with disabilities in which students attend classes with their peers and participate as fully as they can with their peers.

An instructional aide will work closely with Mark. With a laptop computer and a joy stick he will be able to participate in classes with his fellow students during the day.

At home on audio he will listen to required reading such as J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye.”

Grahame said he hopes his son’s presence in the classroom is an inspiration to his peers.

“The real task he faces at school is learning to communicate freely with everyone,” said Grahame. “It will be an enormous challenge for Mark, his teachers and fellow students. I think this will be an educational experience for all of us.

“Mark himself in a sense will become a teacher to his fellow students as they watch him struggle to get back to normalcy. I hope the message of being cautious when driving really comes home to the students at Analy.”

A second annual traffic accident prevention and victim’s awareness fair called Drive Survive 2000 is planned for Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

At home Mark tells his family how he feels with eye contact, smiles and body language.

“We have developed a language that is almost perfect,” said Grahame. “It is done through head movements, facial expressions, movements of the hands and legs and an occasional verbal expression of displeasure when he is unable to communicate.”

At those times of frustration Mark utters a very loud growl, which his friend Eric Fraser compares to what the Wookie “Chewbacca” from the Star Wars movies sounds like when he gets upset.

About that time Mark’s cat Kiki finds a quiet corner to hide.

Most of the time Mark can be found smiling at everyone in his world.

When he is with Fraser at the Mark Petchey Foundation office he uses his foot to tap out words on a poster with letters on the wall.

At home he is relishing the taste of his mom’s home cooking and dishes dropped off by a volunteer.

Mark’s mother said she hopes Mark can get rid of intestinal feeding in the next two to three months.

He’s eating nutritionally balanced meals prepared by a volunteer who is a retired nurse. He eats curry chicken with zucchini, carrots and mashed potatoes or turkey lasagna with spinach and eggs.

“Mark likes spicy food,” his mom said. His favorite is Thai Shrimp curry with white rice.