I have often heard the expression: ” God gives special children to special people”, and while I often cringe inwardly upon hearing this statement (especially on a bad day when there is nothing special whatsoever about your 14 year old throwing his clothes in the toilet, wetting his bed, or perseverating relentlessly via sign language for gold fish crackers 😫), most days I would have to agree. Life is often hard for and with our kids, yet I couldn’t imagine life without Brian, despite the trials and tribulations. Not everyone would be up for the challenges that we special parents have to face with our children, day in and day out. It is physically and mentally exhausting, while simultaneously exhilarating, especially when they achieve the smallest of milestones. Now don’t get me wrong- if I had a magic wand, I would definitely make all of the physical, mental, and emotional challenges that Down syndrome and autism have created in Brian’s life go away in an instant. Life would surely be easier for Brian, my husband, and I! In the meantime, hope and faith, along with other special families, continue to encourage us in our daily walk. Medical and educational outcomes continue to improve, innovations are always on the horizon, and Brian does continue to make his progress, step by step, albeit very slowly…
The lions share of this progress would also not be possible without the patience and dedication of the teachers who have been placed in our path, for they too, are “special people chosen to teach special children”. Ironically, I have an undergraduate degree in Special Education and a Masters in Elementary Education, but chose to work in the business world for many years first before finally coming home to the classroom. I initially taught high school Math and English for 2 years in the Resource room, before making a segue to elementary school as a Math and reading basic skills teacher for Grades 1-6 up until Brian was born. People often say to me that this background must have prepared me for Brian’s arrival, but nothing could be further from the truth. I had taught students who had mild learning disabilities, which is quite different compared to Brian’s issues. I was as equally overwhelmed, grief-stricken, and befuddled as most parents are when they learn that their child is born with a disability. I had absolutely no clue what to do in the beginning, and had to take things one day at a time. Fortunately, there have always been those exemplary teachers along the way that have been encouraging guides and in some cases, good friends. They have earned my utmost respect and my husband and I will be forever grateful to them for all that they do willingly and patiently for our son. This includes Brian’s current staff, for whom we are especially grateful for.
Brian goes to a private applied behavioral analysis (ABA) school for children on the autism spectrum. Most of the students who attend this school have complex challenges that require inordinate amounts of patience and dedication on behalf of the staff. I never fully understood exactly how much the staff did for the kids until I became involved in the school’s Parent Professional Organization (PPO), which is similar to the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) in the public schools. I was the treasurer for the last 2 years and saw first hand how the financial resources of this organization were utilized for the benefit of the students. So many wonderful activities, field trips, and educational resources are sponsored by the PPO! Our kids receive educational experiences beyond the classroom that enriches their lives, as well as in-house resources that are necessary for their learning. It’s a great collaboration between Home and School for the common good of the students and also, I feel, an opportunity or a way of saying “thank you” to the staff for all that they do for the kids. It’s important that the staff know how much they are appreciated. I don’t know what we would do without them!
While not everyone can volunteer at school due to work and/or other personal commitments, there are still ways to support your child’s teachers that are much appreciated:
1) Communication- notes, emails, or phone calls to let the teachers know what a great job they are doing, and not just when there is a problem.
2) Homemade cookies or brownies- just because! You are thinking of them and took the time to express your gratitude.
3). Contacting your teacher’s principal or supervisor to brag about them- this is quite motivating- for anyone! 😊👍🏻
4) Attending school events/ teacher parent conferences- work schedules can make this impossible, but teleconferences can be an option! Any opportunity to support our teachers is a valuable investment for our kids.
5) Thank you notes mean a lot too, anytime of the year and for any reason!
Wishing all the women who teach special children, (whether you are a Mom, teacher, Grandma, Aunt, neighbor, or a friend), a very Happy and Blessed Mother’s Day! May you experience on Sunday all the love and joy that you give each and every day- thank you for choosing to teach and love our kids. Your vocation is certainly not for the faint hearted, in fact, many would not necessarily choose a career in special education. Yet, somehow you too, like we parents, are transformed for the better by our kids in ways that are extremely challenging, yet rewarding, step by step….
Until we meet again, thanks for reading! 😊