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