At first glance these little laminated pictures might not seem like much, just little cards with things many three year old boys might enjoy. And they are that. Ethan is currently obsessed with all things Angry Birds and can already best his mom who is pretty hopeless at the game. I’ve lost count of how many monster trucks he has and I thought he would faint from happiness when he saw one in person a few months ago. Frankly dear friend, if I never see another episode of Caillou I would do the happy dance, but Ethan finds him comforting and struggles with most other animated TV so the little bald French guy and I have a truce for now. So yes, the pictures are just kid stuff but what I also see when I look at them is love and the willingness to not give up on a child.
As many of you know Ethan is on the autism spectrum and attends a program called Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD). Monday through Friday he rides the special education bus for littles that picks up him and about 3 other kids. For half a day he goes and learns things that kids at any other preschool would learn but he also learns how to deal with structure, how to control his emotions, and how to positively interact with his peers. (You can read more about what his school day is like here.)
With the help of one very special teacher and her assistants, Ethan is doing amazing! Our home life is so much more peaceful. He is kinder to his sister and friends. I am no longer walking on eggshells when we go out in public.
Mrs. K his teacher is just what my smart and sweet, but strong willed little boy needs. On first meeting her, she seems like what you would picture as a teacher for small children- sweet, friendly, and perky voice. And she is that, but she is also equally strong willed and the perfect match for Ethan. She is loving and fun, but she is also firm and demands the best from Ethan because she loves him and believes in him in a way I had never imagined on that first August day.
He has come such a long way but truthfully he is still struggling at times with the structure and transitions of both home and school life- stopping things he loves or starting not preferred tasks. And let me tell you this kid is a world class fit thrower, but the trick is to not take the path of least resistance and give in. I’m his mother and so I get how challenging it is and how much patience it takes and that’s why I admire and thank heavens that she wants the best for Ethan (and all of her students) and stands firm.
Mrs. K emails me almost daily to touch base and let me know how he’s doing at school or find out how he is doing at home. She is determined to not give up until we find the strategy that works for him completely and won’t accept halfway. The kids in Ethan’s class have various abilities and challenges but she believes in every single one of them and will only accept their personal best.
Last week I got an email asking what does Ethan love and I told her trains, candy, monster trucks, Angry Birds, and (sigh) Caillou. She told me that she was creating a reward system for tasks for him and explained that she would send it and a few other schedule charts home with instructions. Yesterday, when I pulled it out of his backpack and I saw what she had made I got a little teary.
She had taken the time to make it a train, something he could get excited about. Basically each piece of the train is a step in a required task (the process of getting ready for school for example) and as he completes a step he puts a Velcro piece on the train (brushing his teeth gets a car) and when he’s done all of the steps and completed the train he gets a reward. She had lovingly found icons for Caillou, Monster Trucks, and Angry Birds (his rewards). She had taken the time to print it all out, cut it, and laminate it. All of this is for home and not her classroom and she used her time to do it. Why? Mrs. K wants the best for my boy and wants him to succeed and I thank my lucky stars for her.
This post is to say thank you to Mrs. K and all those teachers out there making train charts, nurturing and teaching our children with love, and wanting the best for their students no matter what their abilities. Thank you Mrs. K for getting Monster Trucks. Thank you Mrs. K for getting Angry Birds. Thank you Mrs. K for getting Caillou (You might be a saint.). Mostly thank you Mrs. K for getting my boy.
Linking to: http://kirstenoliphant.com/2014/03/18/small-stories-spring-break-edition/