Where On The Continuum?

 

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Those of you that know me personally, or have been reading my blog for some time, are aware that I am a special education teacher and an independent special education consultant. I have a myriad number of friends with children that have some type of diagnosis. I grew up with an aunt with intellectual disabilities, and have a grandson on the autism spectrum. I have an online page for parents of children that have various special needs, and am co-founder of a parent networking and support group. I tell you all these things, not to give you a list of my credentials, but to let you know, when I speak about special education, it is from years of experience. My passion and drive has always been to educate an advocate for those individuals with disabilities, and their families.

I am “back in school” to get my Master’s degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders. My classes on transition, collaboration, and behavior have validated a lot of what I have thought for years. The other day, during class discussion, we were going back and forth about the “Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)” continuum. The continuum being from very restrictive, such as individuals living in an institution, to the very least restrictive, when children (with disability diagnoses) are in their general education classes with only a minimum of supports.

I read an article the other day, written by a mother of two children. One diagnosed with Down Syndrome and one not. The article discussed how she wanted her child with DS to have full inclusion. The author believes, in her opinion, that all children, regardless of (dis)ability, should have a fully inclusive experience at school.

Her article made me wonder. Do all parents feel this way? Is full inclusion really the best education, regardless of diagnosis, for all children? Is being with “typical” peers, using the same general curriculum, always the most appropriate learning for all involved? I took this topic to my online page for parents. Those that replied to the discussion, had some interesting perspectives. Parents told of their children, that are in full inclusion, getting in trouble frequently, and often requiring, but not receiving, more sensory breaks. Others talked about a mixture of “pull out” special ed classes and general ed, while others wanted their children out of the general ed classroom altogether, because their child was being bullied. This parent spoke, of feeling her child was safer in a special education classroom. I believe all these parents wished full inclusion would work, but unfortunately that often isn’t the reality. Maybe some of my readers  have children in full inclusion and it is working. I’d love to hear your stories.

Special education has come a long way since the enactment of Public Law 94-142, The Education of All Handicapped Children Act, forty-one years ago. Reauthorizations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, over the last twenty-six years have created more opportunities for those students with disabilities, and their families. Before 1975, special education services were hit and miss. Some students, who desperately needed services, didn’t get anything at all. Even with all the good that has occurred since this time, there is still a long way to go……….

I am a firm believer in everyone having a voice. I believe in real collaboration, working together to form solutions that will be good for all involved. Do I expect perfection? Absolutely not. I doubt anything will ever be perfect……but, it can be better. Here are some questions I think about, not because I have all the answers, but because I think we need to think about these issues and consider the implications. In this way we (the families, student, schools) can make the best choices possible. Isn’t that what special education should be about?

  1. Is full inclusion always appropriate if a child is unable to work at their grade level? Should we alter the integrity of grade level curriculum in that classroom? Or are modifications always okay? How many accommodations/supports are too many to still be considered for full inclusion?
  2. Is having a special education teacher in the general education classroom for one or two academics, enough?  Does working with the special ed teacher, in the general ed classroom, make the child feel even more different? Is working one on one or in smaller groups in a special ed. classroom, wrong?
  3. What about all the non-academic activities? Some students have difficulty during unstructured times. Some students require more sensory breaks. Some students require a person to teach them and daily practice with them, social skills.
  4. Is is right to expect a general education teacher (who might have only had to take one or two special ed. classes to get their degree) to understand a myriad number of disabilities their students could have? Can we expect them to be proactive instead of reactive in their classroom behavior management? Is it fair and equitable to treat all the children the same? Does fair always mean equal?
  5. How do we keep students from being unkind to each other? Do we talk about a student’s disability to the class? In order to help the class understand “why” a student might act the way he/she does?
  6. Should the student who has a severe intellectual disability, be subjected to taking standardized tests at their grade level? (For example, should a fourteen year old with the cognitive ability of a toddler be expected to take an eighth grade test? And if so, why? How will the results even be close to any kind of accuracy?)
  7. Should a teenager with high functioning autism have less supports in his general ed classes, because he “doesn’t look like he has autism” and “we don’t want him labeled”?
  8. Is overlooking a student’s true needs, an inherent danger in inclusion, because sometimes a student doesn’t “look” like he/she needs special ed services/supports? (whatever that is supposed to mean)
  9. If/When do the rights of a child with special needs carry more weight, than a child who does not have special needs?
  10. Are we making decisions now that will ultimately benefit the student after he/she graduates? Shouldn’t all of school be preparation for life after graduation? Especially, with teenagers, how to we make sure our children will have a smooth transition?

Blog readers, what do you think? I would be interested to hear your opinions, your experiences……

 

 

Taking The Next Step

As many of my readers know, I have been a special education teacher for twenty-six years. For several of those years I have also been an independent special education consultant. I grew up with an aunt that had intellectual disability. I have a grandson on the autism spectrum. I have dear friends who have children with a myriad number of different diagnoses. About a year and a half ago, I started thinking about going back to school. (I have either been in school as a student, or as a teacher, for 43 of my 48 years. Wow. That is a lot of school.) I wanted a graduate level degree in autism spectrum disorders. Although I am a passionate advocate for all individuals with disabilities, those with autism have a special place in my heart. Last January my new adventure began.

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I have been enjoying my classes. There is something to be said for going back to school in one’s forties. I enjoyed college my first time around, and did well. (C-N Class of ’90, Go Eagles!) After receiving my bachelor of science in special education, I set out to begin teaching. Twenty-six years, with a plethora of experience later, here I am. I am back in school. My professors are probably around my age, which is kind of funny. This time around I am not intimidated by my instructors, as I was when I was in my late teens and early twenties. (Professors are not the gods of academia as once thought, but go grocery shopping and to their kids ballgames, just like the rest of us. Go figure.) I’m bringing a lot of experience to the table this go around, and have ample opportunity to show off my intellect and my razor sharp wit. (Well, okay maybe not razor sharp anymore, since I’ve mellowed with age, but definitely not dull. Just sayin’.)

In one of my classes we have been discussing transition from high school into adulthood. That transition is difficult enough for a typical high school student, but for a high school student that has a disability and has been receiving special services it can be down right overwhelming! I want to share something I wrote in one of the discussion boards about transition. We had been talking about a broader vs. more narrow perspective on this transition from high school to adulthood. I think it bears repeating.

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“Before answering these prompts, I just wanted to say that I was so into this reading. I was reading silently, but would frequently interrupt myself with, “Exactly!”, “Yes!”, and “That is what I’ve been saying!”, as I scribbled notes in the page margins with a highlighter. Honestly, this subject is one that has been on my radar for quite some time now.

Kohler (1998) describes the tenets of a broad perspective of transition for a student, as one where all classes, programs, and activities while in high school are part of a plan, that focuses on a student’s goals after high school. Each student is different, and requires a plan that addresses their individual needs, interests, and preferences. In a broad perspective, students are not treated with “cookie cutter” plans—one size fits all. This way of thinking does not just accept a checklist of transition steps, that covers legal obligation. A student’s school career is ultimately about preparing him/her for the rest of their life!

In my opinion, I feel that unfortunately, many schools still do not hold the broad perspective of transition, falling back on the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. The more narrow perspective primarily focuses on the last couple of years of a student’s high school career, and setting them up with agencies/providers for their postschool life. In the reading, (bottom of page 180) I was struck with the sentence, “Many local education agencies’ tendency to meet the letter of the law rather than the intent of the law has resulted in expanded IEP forms……”. So, true! As special education teachers we have paperwork on top of paperwork! In the case of transition, there is a bog down in the process. All of education should be preparation for life. With this in mind, shouldn’t we be concerned with everything leading up to life beyond school?

I was deeply touched by the part of the paper that discussed how schools work with college bound students, preparing them, readying them, helping them for the time when they will leave high school and step out into the “real” world. Why should it not be the same for our students that receive special services? Are they not just as worthy as a college bound student? Can’t their futures be just as bright as the ones who ace their AP courses? The narrow perspective puts our students in special education, into a box. A “to do” list. Half the time, these young people aren’t even actively involved in the plans for/about THEIR lives! I have been asked to attend IEP meetings for high school students in a consultant capacity, by parents who are desperate to have the school consider a more broad perspective for their child.

I can immediately think of a case that is a prime examples for the narrow perspective of transition. This case was a young man diagnosed with intellectual disability and several medical issues. He is extremely personable, gregarious, and doesn’t know a stranger. He is a friend to one and all. He is also very daring, and athletic. (He recently tandem jumped out of an airplane, and is a member of a rock climbing club.) In my mind, for this young man, the sky is the limit! Sadly, his transition planning was about checking off the legal boxes for his plan, per IDEA. His involvement in his own life, consisted of being asked, “What do you want to do after high school?” Because of his intellectual disability, he struggled to voice his dreams of life after high school. His mother was told that they were inviting agencies/providers to his next IEP meeting to prepare him for after graduation. He told his mother he did not want to work at the workshop. That was boring. He was not interested. He even said to his mother, “Why can’t I play on a community softball league? Why do I have to only play with the Special Olympics?” The whole situation just bothers me. I want so much more for him, than the school or the local board of DD is willing to give!

 

On the other hand, I read a story recently about a high school special education classroom that owned and operated their own coffee shop, in the school. They worked as a team, everyone was involved! They took orders from teachers and students, and delivered coffee (and baked goods!) They were learning social skills as well as business skills. They were required to collect payment for the drinks/food, and figure out change. They kept “the books” for their business, giving some of the proceeds to school based activities and functions (the rest going back into the business). Their teachers commented that the students confidence and self-esteem had flourished. They were more open to ideas, and excited about what the future might hold. I think this opportunity was a great example of a school that has a broader perspective on transitioning through high school, and being adequately prepared for the world beyond the school. These students are learning things across the board, that will help them as they step out into their communities.”

I understand that there are some students with more severe disabilities that might not be able to work out in the community. They might be learning life skills in high school, as opposed to academics. Working at a sheltered workshop might be the best placement for some of these individuals. That is fine and good. My point is that all students are unique, with their own abilities and interests. We cannot have cookie cutter responses to our students in special education, just because “we’ve always done it this way”.

Having a tailored plan requires effort. That is the point of an individualized education plan.

  • Kohler, P (1998). Implementing a transition perspective of education. In F. Rusch & J. Chadsey (Eds.), Beyong high school: Transition from school to work (pp. 179-205). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

 

 

Incredibly Unique

If you have met one person with autism, then you’ve met ….them all  one person with autism. Anyone who works with, knows, or loves someone with autism, understands that this is true. Just as we are each unique in our own right, the same goes for those on the autism spectrum. Individuals with autism share some basic characteristics, but other than that they are incredibly unique.

April is Autism Awareness month. As someone who has spent many years working with and loving those with autism, I wanted to share some of my posts from years past. It is interesting looking back and reading these posts because so much has changed in a matter of a few short years. What used to be a statistic of 1 in 150 children being on the autism spectrum, is now I think at last check, 1 in 68. (Some even say 1:50) Research needs to continue to uncover the cause of this widespread epidemic. When I was in college in the late 80’s, studying for my special education major, I don’t remember autism even being discussed. If it was, it was not in much detail. Now, twenty-five years later, everyone has heard of autism. What has changed in that short amount of time?

You can read some of my previous posts on autism, here. You can also read here and here.

 

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What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

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What I want to be when I grow up…..hmmm……

I ask my children about their interests. What do they want to be when they grow up? I get all sorts of answers. Each of my kiddos is soooo very different. Youth minister, IT specialist, chef, car designer, missionary, vet, attorney, own a ranch, live in the city, live in the country, live in Australia, or Ireland or Seattle. So….who knows? All of my children are intelligent and capable. Whatever they set their mind to do, they will do it. I have no doubt.

When I was growing up I decided at around 16 years of age, that I wanted to be a special education teacher. ( if you want to know more detailed information on that, you need to research my past blog entries) I volunteered for the Special Olympics, worked at group homes for developmentally disabled adults, worked camps each summer for special needs individuals, did an independent study during my senior year in high school at a spec. ed preschool, taught Sunday School for disabled people/was a peer buddy, and then graduated from college with a degree in special education and taught for 17 years. Now I do special education consulting for families. It is a passion of mine, if you hadn’t already guessed.

Maybe some day, God will direct me/help me to become the “Erin Brockovich” of special education. Fighting for those who have no voice. I know people personally who are having to argue with  the system on a daily basis to get even the smallest of help for their disabled child. It frustrates me to no end. I do not understand how drug addicts, alcoholics, even sexual predators can get help…and yet, children who can’t walk, are mostly non-verbal, need help even doing the most basic of self help skills can get nothing. I’m not talking “hand outs”, I’m merely asking why not give them a break? I’m tired of hearing the system tell the parents, “You make too much money for us to help you.” (What?!! A middle class salary is hardly going to cut it, when therapies can run a hundred dollars an hour, or equipment can run into the thousands! And this doesn’t even take into account the fact that families may have other children that they are also providing for!) So, should we convey to these parents that their children don’t matter? Or “Sorry, but the school system has a tight budget this year, we’re spread really thin.” (Excuse me, but who cares? You, Mr. School Administrator get federal money for special ed. services. Ever heard of IDEIA? (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) What do you mean that using a communication device is not necessary? Let’s see, a machine that will talk for the child, or him not being able to communicate at all? Is this REALLY a choice?

Like most other businesses…the business of special education or special services for disabled adults is just that A BUSINESS. Somewhere along the way the “powers that be” have lost their heart for those who are less fortunate. Those who cry, but don’t shed tears. Those who know what they want to say, but can’t speak. Those who run in their mind, yet have legs that won’t cooperate.

Some might say that I am overly excited about this issue. That I am blowing things out of proportion. That things will “work themselves out”.  Um….when? Who is going to work it out? May I quote you on that? Right now it is a bureaucratic pit of red tape. In the meantime, little is changing. Little is getting done. Time is ticking. Early intervention is going by the wayside. My fear is that health care will not be for those who are the weakest among us. Some of the elite don’t believe the lives of the disabled are worthy of treatment, after all, how are they going to improve society? How will they contribute? What can they DO??? Therapies, equipment or supplements are not deemed “necessary”. Not necessary for whom? It is heart breaking. And frustrating.

And yet…..my desire is to make a difference. To be a voice. I speak out whenever I get the opportunity. I help where I can.

 

Waiting For The Train Wreck

I predicted this is what would happen. I can see it coming like a train on the tracks…… I am just waiting for the derailment. Sorry to be so sober, but sometimes that is all one can be.

The government (both federal and state) is a mess. Balancing a budget is a joke. They don’t feel they have to, after all they are the ones in charge. Uh huh. And our country is suffering for it.

With that said, as one who has dedicated most of her life to the special needs community, I have thought a lot about what is offered, and what is expected of children with disabilities. I predicted that because of budget cuts, health care bill expenses, and downward employment trends that it would affect this community….more than most.

These two articles I read within 24 hours of each other. It appears that special education services are in peril in many parts of this country. Some people would say, “so,what?”. Why should those “special kids” be any different than the rest of us…than the rest of the students out there?. Okay, I understand what you are saying, but unlike the typical kids who can learn many times IN SPITE of their teachers, most special needs children learn BECAUSE of their teachers and services. It’s just a fact. Special Education law first came to be (PL 94-142, and IDEA) because children who have special needs, those that learned differently, those that couldn’t eat, move, or breathe like the typical kids were put in the basements of schools. They were put in rooms the size of closets. Their curriculum was limited. Their teachers were second class (or were treated that way). When specific laws came into effect it helped to change things for the better. The federal, state and local funding was important…..because it gave these children a chance. A chance that each person deserves, regardless of their mental capabilities or their physical state.

Now, I read these articles and I cringe. What will happen if more states get waivers that allow them to not have to follow through with the federal funding? To not use the money for what it was originally intended? What happens when children with special needs are forced into general ed. programs with no support? No accommodations? No modifications?No help? That’s not fair to the kids. Not the special ed kids, not the general ed kids, not the teachers.

Don’t get me wrong, I think inclusion can be great BUT only if a plan is set up and everyone involved understands it and agrees to make it work NOT when a child is thrown into a room of 25 kids and told to sink or swim….. That, my friend, is pure insanity.

What is going to happen? What will special education become in the future? I don’t know….and that scares me.

The Children That Changed Me–Part Five

The series that I’ve blogged on for the past several days has been a stroll down memory lane for me. I have had many, many students over the years and more stories than I can possibly tell in just a few short days. Each of my students touched me. Each of them special in their own way. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet them. Being a special education teacher has been an adventure. An adventure I am still on. Most of the time when people ask me what I do, I reply “I’m a wife and mom with all the challenges that come with that, a home school teacher, and I teach in special education.” Then a lot of the time I get this response…”Oh, it takes a special person to teach kids like that.” Hmmm…… I’ve given that response some thought.  I don’t consider myself all that special because I teach individuals with special needs. The truth is I feel blessed to have had the opportunity.  It sounds like a pat answer, but it isn’t. I truly mean that. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination….and there were many days that were frustrating and I felt like giving up…but than again nothing in life of any real value comes easily, does it?

Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve had educators tell me that they didn’t really see the point of having my students in their classrooms. “They aren’t going to learn anything anyway.”   “I don’t know what to do with them.” (As if they were a thing, instead of a person!) At first I found it extremely frustrating. After awhile I realized, if  the teacher could not look beyond the disability to see the child, then it was their loss. Not all teachers were that way. Thankfully, there were many who reached out, worked hard, and met the challenges that special education entails. Both the students and the teachers walked away from the school year having learned something new about each other.  I’ve learned that special education isn’t perfect. It’s a lot of trial and error. Sometimes it’s going back to the drawing board and figuring out something new to try. It’s about not giving up.

One of my greatest treasures of the   “special ed world” has been getting to know my student’s parents. Sure there have been some… um…..how shall I say this, interesting ones.  Yet, most of the parents I’ve met have been good people. I consider it a privilege to know them. Are parents of children with special needs perfect? No. Do they sometimes get angry, or frustrated, or feel sorry for themselves? Sure. They are human. Are they thankful, and happy, and see even the smallest improvement as something to celebrate? Yes. I don’t think parents are perfect. I do think they are real. Many of us will never know the pain of watching our child struggle to eat without a tube. We won’t understand the feeling of knowing that our child can’t be on the local soccer team because he/she can’t walk, much less run. We won’t be able to commiserate about what it is like to see our child struggle to read or write and not have them feel dumb or stupid….or different. Or what about the parent that has a child trapped inside his/her own head, who is smart and funny and creative–but is unable to communicate it, because autism has stolen that from her? Every time, over the years, that I met with a parent I kept this thought foremost in my mind. These parents love their child, imperfections and all. They are requesting my help because they want their child to meet his/her full potential. Whatever that may be for that particular child. They want a chance for their child, just like any other parent. That’s it. So, if there are any parents of children with special needs that are reading my blog today. Thanks goes to you. Really. You are the ones that deserve it.

The Children That Changed Me–Part Four

The year is 1997. I’m still teaching in the same county, just a different school…one closer to my house. This would be the school I would teach in for the next ten years. I liked this school. I met many wonderful teachers and a lot of interesting students while there.

When I started at this elementary school I had seven years of experience under my belt and was fresh from the inner city experience. I felt like, since I survived that, nothing could slow me down now! The first day I met my new teaching assistant. She sized me up right away. Checking me out to see if I was up to par. I guess the “evaluation” turned out okay since we became fast friends both inside school and out. We were the dynamic duo of our little school….and boy, did we have some adventures together!

One little girl in particular always kept us on our toes. I will call her Vonda. I will not use her real name to protect the innocent or not so innocent as the case may be. She was EXTREMELY ADHD along with having learning disabilities. Now, I know a lot about ADHD…when I say she was EXTREMELY I mean it. This is the same girl that would walk around the room and touch everyone as I was trying to teach. I don’t mean a hand on the shoulder, or even a tap. I mean a full out ” squeeze you ’til your eyes pop out” hug. Or she might decide to give you a new hairstyle if your back was turned for a split second. The girl was constant motion. One day, right in the middle of a lesson, she jumped up, raised her arms to the ceiling and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Give it up for Jesus!” Okay. I love Jesus, but to be honest I wasn’t in a worshipful mood right then. I didn’t feel the need for a tent revival. I asked her to have a seat. My assistant told her to sit down….she did not. She bounced around praising Jesus instead of doing her schoolwork. You can imagine what the rest of the class looked like with her conducting her very own “come to Jesus” meeting and me attempting to have a lesson. All of them went wild, like monkeys at the zoo. Later that day, I informed her mother about the incident. Her mother apologized for her daughters impromptu church service…but she laughed. She said, “I have to tell you this story about Vonda.”

We were at church the other Sunday. Everyone was listening to the preacher, preach. We were all into the service, when Vonda started acting out. I didn’t want her to interrupt the service so I gave her “the look”. She ignored my “look” and continued to be disruptive. I whispered for her to sit down and be quiet. She looked the other way. I had, had it! She started in again and so I reached over and gave her a pinch on the leg to let her know I meant business. At this, she let out a loud, high pitched shriek. The congregation thought she was calling out because she was “in the spirit”. I just let them think that, as I gave Vonda another look. She was going to be “in the spirit” again if she didn’t quit!

I had a good chuckle over that story. Her mother and I bonded that day. We both knew what we were up against.

Not all my stories are easy to tell. Some hurt. Some stories I have chosen not to share because they still haunt me today. Stories of child abuse, drugs, and neglect…and a system that many times failed my students. My heart broke. My anger flared at the injustice of it all. When a person is passionate about something…sometimes emotions get in the way. Such is the story that I am about to tell……

I had a new student. I will call her Shelly. Shelly came from a home that was dysfunctional to say the least. Long story short it was all about neglect and emotional abuse. She had grandparents that loved her, but a mom that I don’t really think understood what real love meant.  I really liked Shelly a lot. She was a good kid except when she had “melt downs” and flipped desks and pulled over cabinets and threw things in a rage. You see Shelly was emotionally disturbed. She had a difficult time controlling her impulses….because mom saw fit to do drugs and drink alcohol while she was pregnant with her. She chose those vices over her own child’s health and well being. Shelly would never be “normal” because of her mother. The blame should be laid directly at her mother’s feet. Anyway, as a special education teacher I had to have meetings with parents at least once a year to go over progress.  I don’t know if mom was just having a bad day or what, but as we sat down at the table for the meeting she says to all the school personnel, “the fact that Shelly isn’t making much progress is YOUR fault.”  Now, I am usually a fairly calm and collected person. It takes a lot to get me truly riled up. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to come across that table at her. To scream in her face, “NO. It’s YOUR fault. YOU made the choice to do cocaine. YOU chose to DRINK. YOU chose this life for your daughter before she was even born. How dare you!! Go home and look in the mirror. YOU. YOU. YOU. Your daughter is damaged because you thought that YOU were more important than her and her future.”  I didn’t say this. Instead I just sat there and stared at her. I had to detach myself from it. From the situation. You see, over the years I learned that I can’t fix everyone. It’s not possible. Even though I wanted to help, I could only do what I could do,when my students were with me. Unfortunately, some times I had to turn kids over to situations that were less than desirable…because that is what our system says to do.

Tomorrow I will finish my blog series…my teaching-the later years.

The Children That Changed Me–Part Two

The time was 1992. I was twenty-four years old and a new bride. After marrying I moved and started teaching in a large suburban elementary school. By 1994 I had a classroom of Danny, Brittany, Josh, Lori Beth and Lilly. My little class was a hoot! We were a motley crew of red hair and freckles, big brown eyes and giggles, glasses,  hand clapping and tiny little feet. I enjoyed that class so much. I have to admit Lori Beth was a favorite. I don’t think Lori Beth’s mom would mind for me to tell you that she has Cri-du-chat syndrome. (French for “cry of the cat”) Lori Beth was a licker. If you got within an arms grab of her….you were hers to lick. She licked everything. Most days I went home smelling like spit. I loved her though. She was a happy little girl. I remember thinking one day, that the world looks on those with “disabilities” as different, or dumb (or unfortunately, much worse). Although it has been my experience that most of these children that I’ve worked with have been happy. Really happy. Not fake happy to try and fool others. They usually don’t sweat over the small stuff. Life is what it is and they move on. Usually, with a pretty good attitude, all things considered. Now, I’m not here to say that my students were all sugar and sweetness. They could have attitudes, cry, throw themselves to the floor, pitch a royal fit, and if they were really into it—spit on me or bite me. Hey, it’s all in a days work. The thing is they didn’t hold a grudge, they moved on. One minute they are kicking on the floor, the next they are holding my hand telling me they love me. I love my students for that…..because I always knew where I stood with them. Plain and simple.

Now, back to Lori Beth. In the beginning of school year ’94-’95 I became pregnant. This was all new to Lori Beth. She was amazed to watch as my stomach grew bigger as the school year went on. Her mother asked if it was okay for Lori Beth to touch my belly. She had been talking with Lori Beth about how there was a baby growing inside of me. Now for a  2nd grader with a syndrome that causes mental retardation, going all abstract about babies and how they are inside a woman’s belly, is no easy feat. I gave LB’s mom credit. LB treated me as if I was a precious piece of art. She even contained herself about the licking. I knew she wanted to lick her hand and touch me….it was killing her, but she refrained. (her mom must have given her the lecture about not licking her pregnant teacher. haha!) I was due at the end of the school year…as a matter of fact I missed the last three weeks of school that year. Lori Beth’s mom asked if she could be allowed to bring Lori Beth to the hospital to see me and my new baby. She wanted Lori Beth to see the culmination of all this big belly-ness. True to her word, mom and Lori Beth showed up to see me the day after my delivery. What a precious sight it was. There was Lori Beth listening to her mommy explaining that this was Kendrick, the baby boy that had been growing inside me. She looked at me. She looked at him. She looked at her mom. She was putting it together. It was an “ah ha!” moment.  Chalk one up for real life learning that day.

My goodness, Lori Beth must be somewhere around 22 years old now. All grown up. I miss her.

More stories, more students, tomorrow…….We’ll take up in the year 1995.