How My Son’s School Aide Has Changed Our Lives

Sending my nonverbal, autistic 3-year-old to school was the scariest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. We have been blessed with an entire team of therapist and teachers, but none of them can be with him the entire time he is at school. They have a classroom of other children to attend to as well. As a parent, you worry about your child, but when your child is nonverbal, the fear can be constant.

If he is sick or someone is being mean to him, he can’t tell me. I could have kept him at home until he turned 5, but would that have been beneficial to him? He needed the social interactions. He needed the routine. He needed the extra supports and therapies. And we would later realize he needed Mrs. Ellie.

When you send your child with a disability to school, you pray they get an aide who at least has some understanding of what autism is and who will watch him closely so he doesn’t elope. You don’t expect much more than that. With my son’s aide, we got much more. He isn’t just a job to bring home a paycheck to her. She is in constant contact with me. She checks on him on the weekends and during school breaks. She had to be out for surgery and she was calling the classroom to check on him from her hospital bed. She loves my son. She teaches my son. She is always asking for more information and what she can do to help him. When he is at home and he does something for the first time, she is one of the first people I think to share the good news with.

Mrs. Ellie has been a blessing we didn’t realize we even needed. She can get my son to do things I worked tirelessly to achieve but failed. Some of the simplest things other parents take for granted, such as a finger-paint hand print brought home from school, are a big feat for him. In just a few short months, he went from not being able to play in centers for more than a minute to playing in each center for the entire time allotted. When I drop him off at school, the first thing he does is search for her and sail into her arms. That right there is enough to ease a mother’s worry. He loves her. He feels safe with her. I know I have nothing to worry about when I send him to school.

Having Mrs. Ellie has taken a load off my mind. They fit together. I’ve heard horror stories of kids going through a long string of aides who never were just quite what they needed. We are fortunate we didn’t have to go through this process.

Before I sent him to school I prayed — I prayed hard. I believe God had a hand in the hiring of Mrs. Ellie. She loves him and pushes him. She has helped him make huge improvements already.

To Mrs. Ellie: thank you for loving my son, teaching my son and being exactly what he needed.

To all those worrying about sending their child with a disability to school, I hope and pray you find your Mrs. Ellie.

A version of this post appeared on Little Old Lady Who Lives in a Shoe.

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Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from Mrs. Ellie and the photo is used with her consent.

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