May 4, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:38 am by autismmommytherapist

Summer 2012 Part 1 002

Today’s post is in honor of Teacher Appreciation week, and is dedicated to the teachers, therapists, administrators, and support staff who work with all of our children.

 

Dear Educators,

 

It’s been almost nine years since my eldest son was diagnosed with autism, and it would be the understatement of the year to say it hasn’t always been easy. My family’s journey with autism has comprised two states, dozens of doctors, therapists, teachers, and Early Intervention practitioners, and by this point I feel as if we’ve seen it all.

For us, however, there has been one shining thread of competence woven throughout all of our trials, and I feel compelled to speak of it today.

In essence, all hail to the teachers.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing of course. There were a few IEP meetings along the way where I cried (one was at the thought of my eldest son moving on to a new teacher in the coming school year, perhaps that one shouldn’t count). Frustrastion regarding my boy’s academics and behaviors has intruded on occasion, and a few times I felt I wasn’t truly being heard.

For the most part however, my family and the bevy of educators assigned to both our boys have been able to play nice with each other, and for this, among other things, I am eternally grateful.

I’ve felt that the dedicated men and women who’ve worked with my sons have respected them, pushed them when appropriate, and equally importantly, have liked them (and trust me, at times both of their behaviors have not been particularly likeable).

Truly, none of them are paid enough.

So today, I’d simply like to say thank-you. Thank-you to the speech therapist who stayed up all night to reinstall the programs my oldest son deleted from his iPad, just because he thought erasing them all would be fun.

Thank-you to the child study teams who tweaked, manipulated, and created the perfect IEPs for seven years for my kids, then made certain they were enacted. Thank you to the administrators who gave us time during that long, awful period when Justin resumed his aggressive state last year, waiting months while we figured out how to quell the terrible tide of his anger without having to remove him from his school.

Thank-you to the aides, the life-blood of any classroom (I know, because I’ve been one), who’ve not only tolerated my sons’ non-compliance at times, but have regarded it as a worthy challenge.

And last, but certainly not least, thank-you to the special education and regular education teachers in three different districts (it takes more than one village sometimes) who have challenged my children, believed in them, loved them, and put up with me to boot.

The latter statement should earn them all the medal AND the monument.

You have not only made a tremendous difference in the lives of my sons- you, through your kindness, your commitment, and most importantly perhaps, your competence, have given my family a life.

For once, all I have left to say is thank-you.

 

December 17, 2012

Thank- you to the Staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:15 pm by autismmommytherapist

candlelight vigil

It’s 5:15 on Saturday morning, and I know there’s not a chance in hell I’ll fall back asleep. I throw on my robe and make my way to my keyboard and wait for the blinking cursor to arrive, that pulsing strobe I know will mock me as I struggle for words.

For once, I don’t even know where to begin.

This won’t be a post about autism, although I will remind everyone reading this that whether or not Adam Lanza had Asperger’s or not, autism did not incite him to his murderous rampage. Mental illness did. The fact that he may have been on the spectrum is no more important than the color of his eyes, or the fact that he was male, or white. Autism, in all its many forms, is not a mental illness.

Hopefully, I am preaching to the choir.

Like many people I try to make some sense of this tragedy by comparing it to others in the past, and by seeing it through the lens of many different roles, specifically those of child, parent and teacher. As I weeded my way through various media commentary on Friday afternoon I couldn’t help but think of Columbine. I can remember my reactions to the event; disbelief, horror, and eventually just a deep sadness which remained for the children, parents, and school staff who endured such terror. When Columbine occurred I was not yet a mother, and could only imagine the devastation that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold wreaked on that terrible day. Now I am a mother, one whose youngest child turns six in a few short weeks, just like many of those lost to us forever.

Trust me, like many of you, the “what- ifs” running around my head regarding my children are without doubt my early morning wake-up culprits, and I don’t imagine they’re going anywhere very soon.

As I sit here in the wee hours of the morn I find I can’t stop thinking about those kids, yet I can’t write about them either. Perhaps it’s too close, too soon, but I can see them through the lenses of both mother and teacher, and it’s just too much. I am so, so sorry for their parents, grandparents, and siblings. I am so sorry for that entire community, who will be permanently marked by this loss, who can never fully recover from such a tragedy. I am even deeply sorry for those children who survived, because they are not only old enough to remember the horrific events of this infamous day, they are also old enough to understand what happened. Their innocence has been robbed. Their childhoods have been stolen.

And yet, that’s nothing compared to all of those little lives lost.

No, as I sit here struggling with what to say that hasn’t already been said I know I’ll focus on the teachers, because although I’m no longer “practicing”, I’ll always be an educator. I hope I would have acquitted myself with the smarts and grace of the teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary, but I don’t think any of us can ever know how we’ll behave in a situation where the world has been turned upside down, where any semblance of sanity no longer exists. I do know that the teachers and administrators who perished on Friday were the absolute heart of education. Each one demonstrated undeniable heroism, from the teacher who shielded her students with her own body, to the teacher who told her students she loved them in case those were the last words they ever heard, to the no-nonsense principal and school psychologist who rushed a madman with a gun.

I will be so bold as to say perhaps they wouldn’t even see themselves that way, because to many of us, their actions were just part of the job, a sacred trust. It’s one in which these days we are constantly called upon to protect the hearts and minds of our charges, thankfully in a setting usually not rife with violence. On Friday, December 14th, that sacred trust was put into the extreme for six staff members who honored that covenant: Rachel Davino, Dawn Hocksprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Russeau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Soto. They were selfless. They willingly made the ultimate sacrifice.

They were heroes.

From me and my family, to their families and those who loved them, we send our prayers, and our love.

And one last thought for those who have fallen.

Thank you.