“Can I help you find something?”
“Yes. I’m looking for an end of the year present for my son’s teachers.”
“Can you tell me a little about them?”
“Well, sure. I need something special. I know we all say that, but I really mean it.”
I pause for a moment.
“My son calls himself Hero Howie at school. But his special education teachers? Actually all of my kids’ teachers? They are heroes too. His and mine.”
“I have just the thing.”
Because you help my kid out of the car in the school drop off circle with a hello every morning.
Because you watch him in the cafeteria before school starts to make sure he starts his day off on the right foot.
Because you welcome him in to the school and know him by name.
Because you believe in him when no one else does.
Because you understand how a slight muscle movement or seat squirm or change in town of voice means he’s overwhelmed and needs a break.
Because you modify the assignments to fit my kid. Not because he can’t do the work but because you know when he’s reached his limit.
Because you read books and websites and attend seminars outside of school hours to understand my kid better.
Because you love to come to work every day knowing that it’s about my kid and his successes.
Because it’s not just a job to you.
Because you see autism not as a limit but as his strength and step out of the diagnosis box to see him as an individual.
Because you understand that the aggressions are not personal but part of the fight or flight overload of the day.
Because you wake up after those tough days ready to teach again.
Because you celebrate his successes and stay up at night figuring out how to help him the next day.
Because you believe in progress not perfection.
Because you do cartwheels in the halls and make collages of every single picture you’ve taken of him.
Because you request to be my child’s aide and teacher next year.
Because you love him.
Because you taught him to love himself. And believe in himself.
To Mrs. M and Mrs. C and Mrs. S at the elementary school and Mrs. M at the preschool…
You. You are the heroes.
And for that, I am forever grateful.
“And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you.” – Hero by Mariah Carey