Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yesterday

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves. -Amelia Earhart

Yesterday was just a typical day in the life of our family and it was a good one.  Strike that.  It was a very good one.

Yesterday was a school day.  Our Little Man spends part of his day in a "self-contained" class with other children, like him, who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and part of his day in a typical first grade classroom.  Given the nature of his impairment, our Little Man is accompanied to the typical first grade class with a one- on-one aide.  Her name is Mrs. P.

For those new to the blog, I should tell you that our Little Man has a severe communication impairment.  In more technical terms, he has a severe "expressive communication" impairment.  He has great difficulty expressing himself.  Its almost as if he doesn't understand the concept of a conversation.  If you ask him something with a definitive, concrete answer, he can, usually, with prompting, answer it.  Questions like: What color is that car; or What is my name?  If you  ask that kind of clear question, that has a definitive answer, you have a reasonable chance of getting a response.

Now the fun part,

Ask a question with a subjective, open-ended or unclear answer and you have almost no shot at getting a response.  Questions like: How are you; or How was school today?  Such questions can not be meaningfully answered.

His inability to answer that second question is particularly troublesome to his parents.  We send him on the school bus in the morning and receive him home in the afternoon, with almost no way of determining what happened to him in the day.  Most days, we get a pre-printed form home, with a smiley face circled on it.  That is all we know.  

How was his day:  

Doesn't tell you much, I know.   

In this day and age, with all the reports of bullying and other such nonsense at schools, it certainly is a big leap of faith to allow a child with severe communication impairments out into the world.

Thankfully, we have Mrs. P.  A few weeks ago, my wife asked the school for more information about the Little Man's day.  He was spending more time with Mrs. P in the typical first grade and we had no idea how it was going.  Other than Mr. Smiles above, we literally had no idea.  But that simple request from my wife opened a whole new door of communication.  Each week Mrs. P sends home her hand written notes of  her observations.  We look so forward to those glimpses of his days.  

Mrs. P's care and concern for the Little Man is immediately apparent by what she writes and how she writes it.  Indeed, just yesterday, on the eve of the Little Man's birthday, Mrs. P gave him a book and in the book she inscribed the following:

Happy Birthday!  Thanks for teaching me something new everyday.

At a time when there is some pretty bad news in our community about children with special needs and bullying in our school district, we are certainly lucky to have someone like Mrs. P.

Enjoy the weekend!

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