To the Kindergarten Teacher Who Never Gave Up on My Son With Autism
You know who you are. You know what you’ve done. You try to deny it. You say he’s so smart. He tries so hard. But it’s you. You were the catalyst we needed. You made the difference. You.
You are so humble and genuine. You teach in a private school with neurotypical children. You are in a “regular classroom” but took my son in with open arms. He’s anything but typical. Yet you treated him like all the others. You insisted that you were his teacher, not his aide. You kept him mixed at the tables with the other students. You invited him onto the rug at story time. You kept him in the middle of the chaos, so he belonged.
But you allowed him to be different and embraced it. You allowed him to use red crayon on his tougher days to complete an assessment. You allowed him to sleep in the afternoon because his little body was worn out from working so hard all day long. You allowed him to take walks when meltdowns proved he had his fill for the day and needed an escape. You pushed him to beat the odds and work hard. You taught him more than I ever thought you would.
When we began our journey, I was so scared that he wouldn’t make it. “They” said he wouldn’t make it. Not at a typical school. Not at a private school. Only a special program would do. He has moderate autism, severe ADHD and everything that goes along with it, yet is quite bright. We were told that most children with his severity of disability don’t have the same cognitive ability he has. You saw it immediately. You saw it, and you insisted I see it, too.
When he came to you, he couldn’t hold a pencil. I just wanted him to be able to write some uppercase letters in crayon by the end of the year. Others had tried to get him to hold a pencil and write, but it just didn’t happen. Within two weeks of being with you, he held a pencil and wrote both uppercase and lowercase letters. You taught him to read. You taught him to cut with scissors. It wasn’t perfect. There were bumps and yelling and throwing and kicking. He tried to escape once or twice. Even with all this, you gave him the foundation he needed for the other team members to be successful, for my son to be successful.
You got in my face. You forced me to believe that he could do it. I fought you. But you insisted. You never gave up on him or me. You not only taught him, you taught me. I learned just how gifted my son really is. I learned that pushing him gently is what he needed. I learned that he can; he is able. I remind myself of this when he flounders. I remind myself of this when I worry. I remind myself of this when people doubt him. I doubt him no longer.
One of the greatest compliments, though, is what you told me at the end of the year. You said, “He made me a better teacher.” Not only did you teach us, you allowed him to teach you. He stretched your limits in many ways. You were already an outside-the-box teacher, but you allowed him to take you further and explore more. We challenged each other because of this little boy. This little boy brings out the best in everyone he meets.
Thank you for allowing us to work as a team. Thank you for seeing him for who he really is. Thank you for pushing us beyond our comfort zones. We are all better because of it. You made more of a difference than you’ll ever know or admit to, and we are forever grateful. Because of you.