You have probably heard the phrase, “It takes a village…” when referring to the influence of others in the raising of your child. It truly does take a village, especially when you have more than one child, and even more so when you have a child with special needs.
My oldest son has Tourette’s Syndrome, and I have been the worrisome mother ever since he was diagnosed at age 5. Okay, I was a worrisome mother before that, but, once you realize your child has a neurological disorder that will impact every part of his life from here on out…Well, it’s a lot to take in. You spend your day wondering how your child is doing. Are they transitioning well from one thing to another at school? Is anyone making fun of them? Are they becoming stressed by having to sit still so long? Etc., Etc., Etc.
I feel like my son was given a hard load to carry. But, I have been so very thankful for people who have been placed in his life that have helped him to successfully carry his load. My son, who is now in the 6th grade, has had the most amazing teachers. I cannot say enough about them.
The Kindergarten Years
In Kindergarten, the year his vocal and motor tics were at their worst, he had the most kind, understanding teacher, Mrs. Vermett. She would let me know how rough of a day he’d had…never sugar coating it, but never annoyed by him either. It was this teacher who came to me and explained that the other kids were beginning to ask questions about why my son was making noises, which led me to understand that we needed to begin making his peers aware of his condition. We had our first classroom meeting that year to explain my son’s disorder to his peers, which is something we continued up through 3rd grade.
My son was petrified of having to go and wait in the cafeteria before school started. His sweet first grade teacher, Mrs. Laupus, understood the anxiety this would cause him and didn’t even blink an eye when I asked if he could come into her classroom just a few minutes early before the day began, allowing him to escape the craziness of the hallways when the bell had rung and all the kids were walking to their class. She was always forward-thinking, trying to eliminate any stress for him that she possibly could. If she knew she was going to have to miss a day, she would have a talk with him the day before, and let him know she was going to be absent. Mrs. Laupus also tried to make sure she always had the same substitute teacher, so my son would feel more comfortable. I’m sure it helped other kids as well, but I knew she specifically had him in mind when requesting this.
Ah, Mrs. Dant and Mrs. Shisler- they knew him so very well! I was so appreciative when we spoke, and I could tell they understood his unique little personality. They were aware of what would bother him, and knew the areas where he would excel. Mrs. Dant used to have him as the class expert when their class was learning to play chess. Meanwhile, Mrs. Shisler would refer to him as ‘her little man’ (he’s very mature in his interests and certainly prefers talking to adults over other students.) I was always so thankful that she would always find time to engage him in conversation.
I couldn’t have asked for better teachers than Mrs. Lipperdt and Mrs. Fry. They were aware of his challenges and went above and beyond to make his 4th grade year an enjoyable one for him. Without me even asking, they gave him an early morning tutoring pass, so if I ever needed to drop him off before the kids were allowed to come to the classrooms, he could go to their rooms instead of having to wait in the crowded gym. I remember one rainy afternoon when I received a text from Mrs. Fry telling me that my son was unsure of what to do at dismissal (even though we had gone through that morning what our plan would be if it was raining at dismissal time). I let her know what our plan was supposed to be on rainy days, and she reminded him. Oh, how thankful I was for Mrs. Fry that day! Otherwise, it would have been a meltdown moment after school.
Gifted and Talented
Mrs. Lipperdt questioned why my son wasn’t in the gifted and talented program(GT). He had been tested a couple of times earlier in his elementary years, but had never qualified; his previous teachers were also a little confused as to why he didn’t qualify. But, this teacher wasn’t satisfied with the outcome, and decided to do something about it. She reached out to the gifted and talented teacher for their campus and they tested him once again. But, when he, again, did not qualify, she went to the GT teacher and expressed concern.
Mrs. Lipperdt told me she found out that they tested the kids by having them do an online test, which was timed. With his anxieties, she quickly realized that this testing environment would not be one where my son would excel- he has always hated being timed! She provided work samples, and she (along with some of his former teachers) plead their case explaining why they believed my son belonged in the GT program.
So, the GT teacher graciously agreed to test him again, but in a different way. She sat with him one-on-one and allowed him to take a pencil/paper test, giving him lots of breaks. When she noticed he was becoming overly stressed or anxious, she would let him get up and take a walk down the hall to get a drink, etc.
He ended up performing so much higher, and was placed in the gifted and talented program in our school district, which has made a world of difference for him.
He is now being challenged intellectually in a way he never was before, making school more enjoyable for him. When he comes home, he’s excited about his school day, sharing more than the one word answers we use to get from him. My son is now in classes with students he has more in common with. It was truly a turning point for him in his education, and it’s something that definitely was not required of his teacher. Do you know how much paperwork is involved when you recommend a student for this program? But, being true to her calling, Mrs. Lipperdt was more than willing to put forth the extra effort and time to provide my son with the opportunity he needed. I will forever be grateful!
At the beginning of my son’s educational career, I was scared to death. Looking back, I know it was this solid foundation of phenomenal teachers who set him up for the success he is now receiving in middle school. Oh, he still has excellent teachers. Mrs. Sovereign, who would email me to let me know that he hadn’t turned in his homework, and she knew that wasn’t like him. Together, we would hunt it down and find it. Or, Coach Haseman who has kept in touch with me throughout the year, whether it be to let me know he found my son’s lunchbox, and would make sure he got it, or simply to tell me that he thinks my son is a great kid. Just knowing that they are taking a little time out of their overburdened day to help my child, where they probably have more things on their to-do list than I can fathom, is so touching. Even while writing this, I realize I don’t seem to have the words that can adequately express how grateful I feel.
I am thankful for all those that have made up my son’s ‘village’. I was so worried because I didn’t know how my son would handle the burden that he’d been given in life. However, I now see that God has placed excellent, wonderful teachers in his path to help him carry the load. The result has been that his heavy burden has gotten lighter. My son is thriving in school now! He excels in his classes, he has a good network of friends, and he LIKES school!
To all the teachers out there, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Thank you for making a difference in so many lives! You’ve certainly made a difference in ours.
To hear more from Julie, check out her blog here.