Why This One Little Word From My Son’s Teacher Meant So Much to Me
I was going through my son Matthew’s backpack when I saw an envelope in the bottom of it. Immediately, I knew it was a “thank you” card from one of his teachers or teacher assistants. Totally not necessary since my Christmas gifts to them are my way of saying, “Thank you!” I admit I read it quickly. And then I stopped.
I opened up the card and read it again. One word caught my attention. “I love working with our Matthew.” One word. Our. That one word changed the meaning of the sentence for me. If she had written “I love working with Matthew”, I would know that she loves working with my son. But by adding that one word, “our,” it meant “I love working with this boy who belongs here, is accepted here and that we all take responsibility in caring for.”
I already knew this of course, see a blog I wrote previously, but it’s always good to be reminded. In that blog post I mentioned ten reasons why his school is the right place for him. Since that blog we have had his IEP meeting, where I was reassured of that feeling again. In that meeting, someone commented “Everyone loves Matthew. We all love Matthew”. And it was genuine and sincere. As we went around the room and staff updated us with information about Matthew, it was apparent it went way beyond sharing what he is doing academically and behaviorally. Each person had a unique little story or tidbit to tell about Matthew. Stories that show that they really know who Matthew is and that they get him.
In fact just today I had written a note in his communication book that it was killing Matthew to see new snow and not be able to play in it. Later in the day I got an email and a picture of Matthew playing with snow in a big container inside the school.
As I was reflecting on this, I realized that as a family we are really lucky because school isn’t the only place where they think of him as “our Matthew”. It extends to other parts of our lives as well (our friends, our family, our neighborhood, and our church.) In the interest of not turning this into a book length blog post, I thought I would share some of the ways our church fit this description too.
Acceptance and Understanding – Matthew is accepted for who he is. People don’t look at him funny when he starts jumping, making noises or flapping. They understand that many of these things are his way of showing excitement. People understand his need for touch and let him scratch their beards. Several members have told us that they were “moved” when Matthew chose their lap as a place to sit or their hand to hold. They don’t blink an eye when they see him coming into church with both a plastic waffle and bun from the play food in the nursery. Every Sunday these are his two favorite items to carry around (and scratch).
Valuing – Our church goes beyond accepting Matthew. They value him as a member. When he is in Sunday School, his teachers ask him questions, just like they ask the other students in the class. With my support we can facilitate his response which helps the other students see him as an important member of the class too. Our childrens’ choir director knows that one of Matthew’s strengths is jumping. So when she leads us in singing songs that involve jumping, she often does a little shout out to Matthew, letting him know to get his jumping feet ready.
Social Skills – Something that Matthew will probably always be working on are social skills. Church is a safe place to make mistakes and learn from his mistakes. Sunday School, Fellowship/Treat Time, Nursery, and even the worship service (i.e. passing of the peace) itself all give him opportunities to learn and grow socially. Being invited to birthday parties of his Sunday School friends is another opportunity that he has to work on his social skills.
My hope with this blog is that even readers who have never met Matthew feel like they know him, understand, and accept him. That to all of us he is “our Matthew”.
This post originally appeared on Autismic.