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August 22, 2010 / paperkids

An Education

I have been frazzled over the kids’ education ever since they started school. It seems like I’ve always been uncertain when it came to class placement or services – never seeming to be completely satisfied or feeling knowledgable enough. I’ve admired so much those warrior moms that would barge into the school and demand that their child be given this service or that. That’s never really been me.  Assertiveness was never one of my strong suits, although I’ve been forced into becoming a little more so over the years. I guess some of it is due to the fact that I have a hard time figuring out what’s “right” in any given situation. What’s going to be the best option, the “right” answer, or the decision that’s going to propel my kids in the right direction? Every decision I’ve made about them has felt HUGE!! And then once I do make a decision, I go over and over it, wondering whether it was the right one.

Emma, being nonverbal, I could never really ask her how her day went at school. I would find out at teacher conferences, IEP meetings, or notes sent home. We would set goals and I would freak out over them and tweak them and obsess. Because of her low expressive, the mastering of school goals has been very slow going. Some goals she seemed to have for years. I remembered thinking at some point that I wanted her to move forward even if we weren’t certain of what she understood. As many low-expressive children get older, education focuses less and less on academics and more on functional skills. It becomes functional vs. academic.
I had seen so many videos of nonverbal adults communicating these intelligent and profound thoughts that I tried to hold on to the belief that maybe that was a possibility.
I honestly wasn’t sure what Emma had been learning all these years. What did she know?
It was all just on paper wasn’t it? Her whole life.

I was suprised to find out that the teacher who’s class I thought Emma had  made the least progress in, happened to be her favorite. That was the year that a reading program, I believe it was called Reading Mastery, was introduced – brought in by this particular teacher because she had used the program before. Certainly, I had NO idea that Emma could read until a couple months ago. Mostly she was still working on identifying basic site words. I’m still trying to figure out how she knows how to multiply and divide!!

When I asked her why this particular teacher was her favorite she pointed out :

She tries to reach her class

When I asked her about it, she had pointed out that this was the class she had learned how to read in – I couldn’t have been more wrong about her progress in this class!!
I am going to have to send a note to this teacher and let her know what Emma “said” about her.  

I’ve since realized that maybe I havent always been right or fair to her teachers, who gave all of themselves five days a week to my children. I discovered that Emma, in fact, liked every single one of her teachers including her very first pre-k teacher, whom she could recall by name.  Every one of them made a difference and contributed to where Emma is today.

I think that those who choose to teach our special kids should really be encouraged and supported for their efforts. It takes a passion and certain kind of heart to sign up for the challenge. And hopefully the knowledge Emma’s communicated is proof that their hard work can be life- changing for their students.

I feel strongly about academic exposure for our children, no matter what we think they are capable of learning. If I’ve learned anything from this whole experience with Emma, it is that we cannot hold these kids back based on our perceptions or expectations of them!!

Emma: I am trying to understand the time

Me: “Are you working on “telling time” in school?

Emma: yes

Me: “What are you using?”

Emma: clock

Me: that’s great! I had a hard time understanding time when I was your age. Do you like Mr. K’s class?”

Emma: yes

Me: “Why?”

Emma: He teaches us like regular kids

I was telling my friend, Candy, about it and she got this for Emma. How about that?! A yellow watch!


Leave a Comment
  1. Lynn States / Aug 22 2010 7:19 pm

    And oh, Emma; I love the smilie face!

  2. Katie Cameron / Aug 23 2010 5:45 am

    Sabra – do NOT forget to write that note to the teacher you mention here. I know it will mean every bit of the world to her. It will be the very thing she needs to hear to keep her motivated for the kids she’s got now. And you know, that’s the whole reason you are doing this blog. So don’t forget!
    Love you,

  3. Rita / Aug 23 2010 1:22 pm

    Sabra, I can so relate to the educational decisions for your children. I started home schooling Amber’s little brother from the very beginning and one would think oh big deal. For me it was a
    big deal because I didn’t even finish High School , eleventh grade was not completed. I struggled with it all through his schooling at home and needless to say so did many in our families. They misjudged God all the way, not me because I was obeying with much fear and trembling. Today looking back at him at 16 and in College, yes in College God knew what I didn’t so yes this IS A WALK OF FAITH and your are being led! He’s in control and that’s a great thing. Thank you for sharing with us I look forward to every blog you post . I’m looking forward to a move one day! Rita

  4. Christine / Aug 24 2010 1:00 am

    I love this post so much. I have to admit it is one of my favorite because I felt you were taking the words and thoughts I feel right out of me. You are one of the most amazing Mommas out there – not only are you fighting for your own kids but you are always there to support the rest of us and our kiddos. I am so blessed for that. Love and Hugs to you!

    PS – Do you know where Candy got that watch? I would love to get one for R! 🙂

  5. Candy / Aug 24 2010 1:19 am


    You’re an awesome Mom! I know how hard you work to get the right services for your children…and you NEVER give up! I wish I was more like you. I never know what to say during the IEPs, so that’s why Eric is always with me.

    I know Emma will learn to tell time, soon. She’s so eager to learn, and she has a cute, yellow, happy face watch that will keep her smiling! I’m glad she likes it.

    Christine, I got the watch at Khol’s.

  6. Grandma / Aug 25 2010 2:57 pm

    Teachers, like nurses, don’t always know how their efforts affect people. We want to hope that we have made a positive impact; that is why we do what we do – to make a difference one day, no matter how small. Any words to that teacher and to others who have touched us will be worth its weight in gold. I heard a phrase, “we have to give it away to keep it.” Even if we cannot pay someone back in material things, we can help someone else as we have been helped.
    Our Emma is showing us the results of those unsung ones who have believed in her, as we have.
    If you have the address of that or those teachers, please pass it on so I can thank them, too.
    I remember looking at Emma as she tried to communicate. She would look upwards, and I knew her thoughts were there. Now we have been blessed with the ability to know her thoughts.
    How wonderful. How grateful I am. We love you!

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