A Letter from A Teacher

Today I read a wonderful letter. It was too perfect, so I wanted to repost it here. It moved me to tears and into the ugly cry. I pray that all of Ethan's teachers see him for the gift he is and not only as his diagnosis.

This was written by Sheila who is a teacher & also blogs at Sprinkle Teaching Magic. View her original post here.

Dear Child With Autism-

You brighten each and every day. You may not know this but I look forward to school because of you. I know school is hard. Every day I see the worry on your face. School goes quickly. Daily changes throw you off-course. You worry. About yourself. You cry because you have no friends. No one invites you to their birthday party. You worry about the weather. In a drought, will the animals suffer? You obsess.

I don’t even mind that you blurt out. I walk in your shoes. The idea explodes to the surface and you can’t contain it any longer. I am patient and smile. We will work on this. At least you have interest. At least you participate. At least you are taking a risk.

You have talents and wisdom far beyond your years. I don’t think you realize this. That is my job. You have enthusiasm for science, word play in poetry, and mythical creatures. I can’t teach creativity and passion. You got it. Others may brush you off. There he goes again. I smile. You were given a window into this world that not a lot of us have. You have the power to get so wrapped up in what interests you the rest of the world disappears.

Throughout the day students see how special you are to me. I model how to treat you with respect and dignity. I model how to talk to and appreciate you. Your classmates observe and follow my lead. The classroom wouldn’t be the same without you. There would be a void. Too quiet. Too blah. We need you in our patchwork. I see your classmates look out for you. I see protectiveness grow. We are a unit and team. We have your back.

You have your days when the tears come fast. When you blink rapidly and try to stand strong. These are the days when you have missed the social cues. Social cues. Little things we take for granted that are land mines for you. I assure you. I remind you of powerful affirmations you can repeat. Take deep breaths. I listen and help you to navigate the confusion. I try to provide the best Cliff Notes I can so that in the future, an encounter with your peer may come easier.

Thank you for your honesty. Your bluntness. Thank you for coloring outside the metaphorical lines. Thank you for being in my class. My heart has grown so fond of you. You push me to be a better and more patient teacher. You push me to develop new and innovative ways to meet your needs. You make me laugh. There are times when you say things and I shouldn’t laugh. But I can’t hold it in. You make me laugh so hard that it echoes off the walls of our classroom and fills the hearts of all my students. My mission every day is to make you smile. You approach life with a furrowed brow and seriousness. I make little silly sounds and shoot funny faces just for you to see. I send you a wink. If I am lucky, for a brief moment, I see the glimmer in your eye. Maybe we have connected.

I am your teacher, and I will fight for you every day. I just see you. Thank you for being you.


Your Teacher

"Plenty to Celebrate"

 You may have noticed that I have been absent from writing lately. Shortly after Ethan started school, there was a shift in Ethan. From my point of view, it was more like a miracle...an answer to this mom's prayers. I talked about that here. Since Ethan's change, I have felt strange about writing. I felt as if I would be betraying Ethan, his growth & his privacy. I just didn't think that this new child would have agreed to me airing all about him. And....if I can't be completely transparent....I can't be me. That's just who I am....real & honest.

So our family is now is a new phase. While Ethan still has ASD, he is wanting so badly to be like his peers & ANYTHING that sets him apart is "bad" in his mind. He wants to be equal with his peers....which in itself is simply amazing. We are seeing Ethan mimic his peers, WANTING to constantly play with his peers, and never wanting to be home. A complete 360. Praise God.

With all of this occurring with Ethan, I feel as if I no longer have a voice to lend in the autism community. Not that our family isn't still dealing with ASD related issues.....because we are.....but it's just not as severe as it once was for us. And for me....that is proof that Early Intervention works. Ethan is proof.

He no longer needs speech, he LONGS to play with others (such a change), and....at his parent/teacher conference last night....his teacher & personal aide told us that he is mostly independent at school....during work & play. Praise God.

For once...............for the first time since Ethan was one year old....................I am able to see new possibilities in Ethan's future. He may be able to drive a car, go to college, have a job, be independent. Maybe even have a family someday.

The last three years have been so hard.....and full of stress & uncertainty. What therapies are available? Which ones should be try? What can we afford? How will this all work? My idea of being a stay-at-home-mom never included running Ethan to different therapies & schools. Never did it enter my mind that I would be planning our play around certain skills he was lacking or trying to sneak in therapy through play. Our lives were lead on a whole new path....not only as NEW parents, but as parents of a child who has special needs.

This summer, I was heartbroken & prayed for Ethan more than I ever have in my life as his mom. He HATED going to church...it was just too much for him. Even after all of the therapy & aids & help that we were doing for him....he was still a mess after church...it was just too much. And I wondered if we would ever be able to go to church or if we needed to find a new church. It was a hard summer.

But now.....it's just so different for us now than it was even this past summer!

My family is seeing a difference in Ethan. He is PLAYING with his cousins. His church teachers are consistently telling us how well he is doing now. His school teachers are seeing growth.

"Plenty to Celebrate"....that's what his classroom teacher said in a recent email......"Plenty to Celebrate."

And.....we are! We are soaking up every second of this year. He is doing so well in Kindergarten....dare I say "thriving?" 

So, I may not be writing nearly as much as I once was.....because we are busying playing with friends, going to new places, participating in activities that were once off-limits.....you know.....CELEBRATING!

(I typically proofread my writing, but I decided to leave it today. Please forgive any grammar errors!)

Tips for Thanksgiving - Helping Those on the Spectrum

One of my favorite resource blogs is Different Roads to Learning. I even subscribe to their emails because I don't want to miss anything that they post. This was in my In-Box today, and I feel compelled to share with you all. I love this acrostic so much....hope you do too!


A Turning Point

Ethan has been in Early Intervention since he was 2 years old. He is now 5 year old and attends Kindergarten full-time with the help of a personal aide. The road to this point was a hard one full of ups & downs and a lot of amazing people. To deal with all of the newness that autism brought to our family, I started this blog. The first 3 years are documented at www.couageandcoffeetheearlyyears.blogspot.com. I poured my heart & soul into that blog in order to help others, find support and leave a diary of our experience. Maybe one day Ethan will want to read it....that will be an interesting day.

All of that.....has led up to a turning point. Since starting Kindergarten, we have all noticed a shift in Ethan. The only way to describe it is that.....he has come out of a fog. He is aware of his surroundings, he is aware of others, he has become extremely social, his brain is constantly yearning to soak up information....even more that before. He cries when he comes home from school because he, "misses his friends." He isn't using his headphones. He isn't using his fidget toys. He WANTS to go to church.....both services on Sunday morning & on Wednesday nights. He wants to go to birthday parties. He wants to go to school functions. He wants to spend the night at Grandma's house....even asks to go to her house very frequently. NONE of these things have been exhibited from him.....ever. He is THRIVING.

I love this turning point. I am praising God for this MIRACLE.

He is realizing that there is more around him...and he wants to learn all he can about what he has been missing. He was playing games with my mom, and she mentioned playing the card game WAR....a game he didn't know how to play. "Grandma, will you teach me?"

"Will you teach me?" That is Ethan's wish......

He has worked so hard to reach this point, and yet he isn't slowing down. I'm so proud of him.

Have you ever watched the movie about Helen Keller? It's SUCH a great movie. I have watched it many times since I was very young. It is one of my mom's favorites. She always said that he learned how to parent from The Bill Cosby Show & The Miracle Worker movie. There is a scene at the end of The Miracle Worker that has me reaching for the tissues EVERY TIME. It's the moment where she realizes that the strange hand movements (ASL) her teacher has been putting in her hands MEANS something. Once she realizes this is her way to connect with the world, she goes from thing to thing....asking her teacher what each item is.....thirsting for more......wanting to learn what she has been missing. I think Ethan is at a similar turning point. Praise the Lord!

To help illustrate my words, I'm including 2 video clips today. The 1st one is an overall summerization of The Miracle Worker. The 2nd is just the specific scene that I am referring to.

This movie was made in 1962, and according to www.biography.com, "Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. In 1882, she fell ill and was struck blind, deaf and mute. Beginning in 1887, Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her make tremendous progress with her ability to communicate, and Keller went on to college, graduating in 1904. In 1920, Keller helped found the ACLU. During her lifetime, she received many honors in recognition of her accomplishments."

What an amazing woman......and an amazing teacher.......and amazing examples for us.

Happy at Recess

I got to school a little earlier than usual. I had completed all my errands, and instead of heading back home, I decided to grab one of the coveted parking spots at Ethan's school.

I'm sooooo glad I didn't go home.

As my van approached the school, I could see Ethan class outside. They were enjoying recess. Having a kiddo on the spectrum usually means not a lot is communicated about what goes on at school.....and what is communicated is generally confusing. All we have heard about recess is that he plays "Holding Hands" with a girl in his class. Oh boy.

Well, today I was lucky enough to have a peek at what Ethan does at recess. Since socializing can be a big challenge for Ethan, I envisioned all possible worse case scenarios happening at recess. Bullying, being ignored, not having anyone to play with, and so on.

Well folks, I am pleased to tell you this is not at all what I saw on the playground!!! He was running around with other boys, even a little spinning (which made him a bit easy to spot), and always surrounded by peers. As recess concluded, the children slowly began walking towards the building. Ethan was walking with 2 other boys....Ethan being in the middle. The were talking, laughing, hopping.....just being boys.

I can freeze time? Please?

"Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to view this moment. When I get discouraged or frustrated, please  remind me of this memory. Ethan has come so far.....and I'm so proud of him. Thank you for Ethan & his uniqueness. He is such a treasure."

Victories At Church!

After writing Difficulties At Church, I took a little hiatus from writing. Those posts took a lot out of me emotionally because I had to tap into those hard moments, remember those challenging times, and somehow convey the emotions while explaining the situations. I was wiped out after that week. But I'm tired of seeing that title on the front page of my blog. I know it's an important topic to discuss because so many of us are dealing with that issue, but I generally don't like to dwell on the challenging....I like to live in the present, the positive, and the victories......so here are some victories that we have experienced at church!

FIRST, I want to start with a victory that I have already mentioned in Difficulties At Church Part Three. Ethan's church teachers set up a system so Ethan didn't need to attend music in the worship room, but he could still hear the music. He was in another room but they left the worship room door open. The first day they implemented this system (which Ethan was very excited about), Ethan stayed back with a volunteer to play with puzzles. After ONE puzzle, Ethan told the volunteer that he was ready to go to music with his class.