When a Shirt Proved My Son’s Assistant Is His Biggest Supporter


“Wow! He is capable of so much more than I would have thought possible just reading his file before I met him!” Music to a mom’s ears. She gets it. She gets HIM. We are going to be OK.

He is my son, Nick, high school freshman, music lover, thrill seeker with an infectious smile that can charm just about anyone. She is Allison, recent college graduate studying for her Master’s in Special Education, always looking for the positive in every situation, hired to be Nick’s assistant as he navigates his school day.

Nick has autism. His biggest challenges are communication and sensory processing. These challenges can make it difficult for him in the general education classroom. In fact, before high school, the majority of Nick’s class time was spent in a self-contained classroom. As we were preparing for him to enter high school, I wanted more inclusion for him so that he really felt a part of the school. While this was not the usual path for kids coming from the “Lifeskills” program, our high school was willing to give it a try for Nick and he was enrolled in 4 of his 6 classes in a general education setting.

Allison has been his biggest supporter every step of the way. When curriculum needs to be differentiated, she collaborates with Nick’s team of teachers to modify assignments so that they are meaningful to Nick and he can participate with his peers. Allison is equal parts Mama Bear and Mama Bird, keeping a watchful eye on Nick while pushing him out there and letting him fly, always looking for ways to facilitate his successful inclusion in a group.

One recent assignment in History really touched my heart. The students were assigned to design a t-shirt that represented them. Allison contacted me to get a few more ideas about Nick’s interests. I relayed that he loved music, rock climbing and the outdoors, which was pretty much what she had in mind. Since drawing is difficult for Nick, we decided that she would draw a shirt and then have Nick find pictures to mimic the drawing.

When I saw what she came up with, tears came to my eyes.

It was the perfect depiction of Nick with the title “Put No Limits On Me.” My son gets to spend every day at school with someone who believes in him beyond measure.  There is no greater gift.

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