I am super excited today, as I have a guest blogger on my blog to share her heart with you:)
I will be short and sweet, I just want to introduce her and her story to you.
Her name is Carrie.
I know Carrie because we used to go to the same church.
I also know Carrie because when I was pregnant with Jake, she was pregnant with her twins!
It ended up that because of medical complications with Jake, and because twins often arrive prematurely, we were in the same hospital, delivering our babies within a couple of days of each other!
It also ended up that all three of our babies were in the same NICU for a few weeks after birth, and so Carrie and I formed a bond that many people will never get to experience. I value that bond significantly and treasure those times with her, and although we don’t see each other very often anymore, I am forever grateful for the partner in the journey during those early weeks of Jake’s life.
Carrie has also worked in the school system with children with disabilities, which makes her the perfect person to blog for me!
I so appreciate the perspective that she carries; the perspective of exposure to the world of disabilities, but not from the angle of having her own child with a disability. She has much wisdom to offer because of her experiences, and she gives me a ton of hope for Jake’s future in the school system, as her heart shines through her stories.
So, without further ado, here is Carrie’s story! Enjoy! And Carrie, thanks a million:) I hope and pray that when Jake arrives on the Kindergarten scene next year, he gets an Education Assistant like you!
OUT OF THE SHADOW TO SHINE
I was excited to have received and accepted my first position with the Rocky View School Division as a PUF Assistant (an assistant in the classroom to help children with disabilities). My first day on the job had arrived and I would be meeting Ty, the little boy whom I would be assisting, and his Mom. My first impression of Ty was that he was completely adorable. He stood there with a big welcoming grin, waving to me as I walked toward him and his Mom. This feeling of warmth soon changed as I introduced myself and shook hands with his Mom, she looked me square in the eye and boldly stated, “The first time I see bruises on my son I will have you fired!” I had first day jitters as it was, and through a rising lump in my throat I choked out, “I will care for and treat your son as if he were my own.” The words just tumbled out, but I meant those words with conviction. I would sincerely respect, protect, and care for Ty as I would my own child and never deliberately harm him. Her defensive expression changed as she smiled and hugged Ty and wished him a good day at Kindergarten. With her departure, this little blonde cutie took my hand and we entered the Kindergarten class together. Together we would venture on a path of learning and growth that would alter my naive outlook on children with disabilities, and in particular children with Down syndrome.
The harsh words echoed in my mind and I realized his mom’s warning came from a “mamma bear’s” sense of protection. After all I was a complete stranger being entrusted with her precious son. He was a part of a vulnerable sector of society, as are all children, and was partially nonverbal at this point in time. I no longer felt threatened, but her sentiments magnified the feelings of over protectiveness that I felt toward Ty. I hovered over him, with the thought of protecting him from anything and everybody. The supervisor of the Special Education team told me that I would have to stop smothering him if he was to grow and learn. It became apparent that I was not treating him like I would my own child; I was standing in the way of his potential. He also had unique challenges and learned differently than my own child.
As I stopped shadowing over Ty, he began to shine and we all gained a better understanding of his competencies. Each day Ty would choose other children to partner with him in all aspects of his learning and therapy. From October to December he learned all of the children’s names in the class, learned classroom routines, stopped holding my hand as much, and made friendships, especially with the girls who loved his hugs. He had many IPP goals (Individualized Program Plan) and with the classroom teachers direction I worked on a few at a time. Ty and I had been working on printing his name. Like my own child, he responded best to a play and pretend approach, so with the use of his favorite plastic monkey from the toy bin, he drew vertical lines on a white board to represent a cage. Then he worked on horizontal lines the next week to” fence” in his monkey. This was not an easy task for him, as gripping the marker was challenging. Finally the day had arrived that he would put a vertical line together with a horizontal line to form the letter T. He glanced at his name printed at the top of the white board and with much determination printed the letter T! I felt an overwhelming sense of joy for him, exclaiming, “Way to go, you did it!” Some of his classmates came over to see what we were so excited about. They cheered as well and Ty celebrated this monumental occasion with his best buddies. He looked so proud and jumped up and down, smiling and saying, “The letter T for Ty.”
That Christmas Ty’s Mom had him print the letter T in all of their cards; she wanted to show everyone what he had accomplished. All of her initial apprehension was replaced with a trust in me and a cooperative sense that we were in this together. Together we believed in Ty and wanted to see him reach his goals. She even hugged and thanked me, as I stood sheepishly explaining, the day he actually did get a bruise on his head in gym class. That bruise meant he was taking risks, participating and learning just like the other kids.