Monday, April 9, 2012

Giving credit where credit is due

In some of my other posts I have talked about the progress Tate has made. I would like to give credit to some of the people who have made the progress possible. The number one reason Tate is able to do what he can today and he is not nearly as handicapped as he once was, is because we hired Nan, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, as soon as we got the diagnosis of autism. I usually just call her our Behavior Consultant. She knows more about autism than anyone else I have met. I will always be grateful to her; because without her, we would not have the Tate we have today.  We saw progress immediately when Nan began working with Tate. I can only imagine all the times my phone calls have interrupted her sleep, work, and family time. Nan goes with me to IEP meetings and has helped me to obtain so many services for Tate that I would not have even known to ask for myself. She has become like family to us. 

Tate and Melissa
A Baker student named Melissa came to work with Tate in our in-home program before he started preschool. She stuck with us for a long time and she is dear to my heart. She was just finishing up her teaching degree and doing her student teaching in an elementary school when she began working with Tate. After working with Tate a short time she decided to go back to school and teach children with autism. She finished and has made an impact on many children with autism now. She is a fantastic teacher; one of the best we’ve known.

There were many college students that worked with Tate in his early intervention program during his preschool years. I could not begin to name them all. Tate developed real relationships with some of them and most could motivate him to work hard. They made learning fun. Tate had such a crush on one of his first teachers that he would work just to see her smile. I watched one student “drag” Tate through the sprinkler and get soaked herself many times so he could experience the water play his peers so enjoyed. Tate idolized one of his last teachers and I believe he is the reason Tate wears a hat faithfully.  That teacher always wore a ball cap and he called Tate his best buddy. That really meant something to Tate. One teacher told me she always drank an energy drink before working with Tate because she had to have enough energy for both of them. She was also one of the best. Tate could always tell if a teacher really enjoyed being with him or if they were there just to fulfill their practicum requirements. Many times the college students gave us valuable ideas and feedback that helped Tate to grow and learn.

Tate with Richie
Tate has had some extraordinary paraprofessionals over the years. His very first para in kindergarten actually had been one of the practicum students we had in his preschool program. Shelly is a “kid magnet” and was so good for Tate’s social skills and academics that year. I wish we could have kept her! The para Tate had in first and second grade was very good with Tate.  She was able to keep him motivated much of the time and she helped to give Tate the sense of humor he has now. I will always be thankful for her. The para Tate has currently is an amazing guy. He is a natural with Tate and can almost read his mind at times. Tate idolizes him and wants to please him so Tate works hard at school and enjoys doing it. A paraprofessional is not paid very much but can make such an impact on the life of a child. They are in the business of making a difference.

Tate has had some remarkable speech pathologists since he started public school. They have supervised lunch buddy programs and social skills groups and role played with Tate.  We have learned about reciprocity, conversation skills, follow up questions, and much more.  Tate has learned so much in his speech classes. When Tate began school and I was told he qualified for time with a speech pathologist I didn’t understand why. He pronounced words just fine. I have learned, speech isn’t about the pronunciation of words; but it is about communication and social skills. I am so thankful for the speech teachers we have known. 

I did not know what an O.T. was when Tate began school. The same Occupational Therapist has been on Tate’s IEP team since kindergarten. The O.T. our district employs is one of the most amazing people we have encountered in public school. She works so hard to help Tate be successful and she always has great ideas. She puts in a lot more than forty hours a week, often working in the evening on books she wants to rewrite at Tate’s level and other things that will help him. She has also introduced us to technology in the classroom.  She is always an encourager.

Mrs. Iverson, Tate, Mrs. Kelly
The Resource Room teacher Tate has this year is unparalleled. I can’t even begin to describe the differences in our lives because we have her on our team. We were not able to have a working relationship with a RR teacher before. We have seen more progress this year than we have since Tate began kindergarten. Tate’s RR teacher is a bundle of energy.  She is knowledgeable, kind, humble, professional, and she shares information with me so we are working together. I have so much confidence in her. I trust her and I like her and she is an answer to my prayers.

Lastly, I have to mention Tate’s principals and general education teachers. The rural school Tate attended in kindergarten, first, second and third grade was a wonderful place. The principal was top notch and the teachers were all some of the best educators I have ever known.  Tate’s teachers were cooperative, kind and so willing to make accommodations for Tate. They made Tate feel like he was a valuable part of the class, even when he was not doing the same work the rest of the class was doing. The teachers went above and beyond what was required of them, often without being asked. Our rural school was closed last year and the move to town was much easier than I anticipated for Tate. The move went well, in part, because the principal at Tate’s new school was so supportive. He allowed me to take pictures, visit the school several times with Tate, and to give teachers and students information about autism. The fourth grade teacher Tate has now is so talented and giving.  She always goes the extra mile. She is creative and “thinks out of the box.” She has used video clips and songs to teach Tate concepts or to motivate him. She is always willing to “go the extra mile.” I wish I could keep Tate in fourth grade a few more years. That is how much I like his fourth grade teacher. I am, however, excited about the teacher Tate will have next year as she moved into town with us from the rural school and she is one of my very favorite people on the planet. 

In a nutshell, above are some of the people that have impacted Tate’s progress, which in turn affects our whole family. I will probably edit over and over as I think of people I should have mentioned. I am not sure people always understand their significance or the difference they make in the lives of the children they teach. I have raised (or am raising) five typically developing children. Their teachers have made a difference! However, it is my experience, when a child has a disability or cannot communicate well, the differences a teacher can make seem to be even bigger. When a teacher takes her responsibility (the job she or he signed up for) seriously she can move mountains. When a teacher bullies, is uncooperative or lazy, the student cannot make progress and a lot of time is lost that can never be regained. A teacher has the ability to make our lives so much easier or to make our lives much more difficult. Small things that would only take minutes can sometimes save Tate (and our family) hours of anxiety. Thankfully, we have had dozens and dozens of people who did take their jobs seriously for every one that did not. I can only remember a very few who would have made better “burger flippers” than teachers. 

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