“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.”

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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.

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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

 

I wasn’t going to write about Sandy Hook.

I couldn’t.  For the most part I’ve had to walk away. I haven’t watched TV since Friday.  Have filtered my Facebook feed.  The harsh reality of the “it could happen anywhere and those children were my child’s age” was just too much to take in.

But then today I read this.  About Dylan Hockley and his aide Anne Marie Murphy:

(from the New Caanan, CT news):

Staring down the barrel of a rifle, Anne Marie Murphy pulled Dylan Hockley close to her, trying to shield him from the hail of bullets that would kill them both.

Dylan, 6, had special needs, his family said Monday. And Murphy was his “amazing” aide, they said. He loved her, pointing happily to her photo on the Hockley’s refrigerator every day…

“We cannot speak highly enough of Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, exceptional women who knew both our children and who specifically helped us navigate Dylan’s special education needs,” Dylan’s parents said. “Dylan’s teacher, Vicki Soto, was warm and funny, and Dylan loved her dearly.”

And I was instantly undone.

Dylan is the same age as Howie.  And in that moment of extreme terror and confusion, he was sheltered and comforted by the person he trusted the most in that school.  His aide.

This is where it hit so close to home.

I know that from the moment Howie gets on the bus until the moment he gets home he has someone with him who cares about his as much as we do. They share in his successes like they are their own and struggle along with him when he is challenged.  His teachers – all of them – are by his side every moment of the day making sure he is safe and comfortable in his own skin and in his surroundings.

I could not send my child to school today or any day if I didn’t have complete trust in them.

I cannot imagine the grief that this family is feeling.  I write this with tears streaming down my face as I sit next to a sleeping Howie.  I watch him dream, so blissfully unaware of what has happened and how everything has changed for so many yet nothing has changed for him.  His teachers are keeping it that way.

Out there in the world people are angry.  There is fighting and name calling over politics and policies and privacy and we are lashing out at one another because there is no one thing to blame so we blame each other.

But it should be Dylan’s story to be the story that is shared. The one that reminds us that even in the face of such horror, our kids turn to and are protected by the people that love them. The one that highlights the bond between student and teacher.  The teacher that for so many of us special needs parents becomes the caregiver we trust the most.  In so many respects, they are their lifeline to the outside world.

I want my son’s teachers to know my gratitude for being there for him every moment of the day. To every single one of the teachers and staff who have been my son’s guiding light from the moment he entered school, I am forever grateful for what you’ve given us.

I find the words of Dylan’s parents to be particularly striking: “We are forever bound together and hope we can support and find solace with each other.”

I hope the rest of us can find that too.

thank you

thank you

“As I walk on through this wicked world,
Searching for light in the darkness of insanity,
I ask myself, Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain, and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I wanna know,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

And as I walked on through troubled times,
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes,
So where are the strong?,
And who are the trusted?,
And where is the harmony?,
Sweet harmony

‘Cause each time I feel it slipping away, just makes me wanna cry,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

So where are the strong?,
And who are the trusted?,
And where is the harmony?,
Sweet harmony

‘Cause each time I feel it slipping away, just makes me wanna cry,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?” – Elvis Costello