Hillary Clinton famously said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I agreed with her then, and agree with her more as I look back at our journey. It is even more true when raising children with disabilities.
Here is a partial list of our village; I will be adding to it throughout the day:
Our piano teacher who taught piano to our kids for 10 years, starting with Will. I asked her if she would be willing to try to teach Will, even though he had been placed in special education and could not yet read at seven years of age. She said yes. After a year of teaching piano with a non-reader book (there are such things), she told me that he had an aptitude for music. Then we added Mary for the purpose of strengthening her hands and improving fine motor skills. Then we added Patty because she wanted to do what her brother and sister were doing.
The 2nd grade teacher who after a year of teaching Will, asked that he be placed in her class for 3rd grade (she moved up a grade) because she thought she had made real progress with him and could make even more progress the next year. This was the year he learned to read, and his reading exploded up the testing chart. By the end of 4th grade he was reading at an 11th grade level.
The Social worker who suggested that Will could possibly be in band in the sixth grade, in part because he had had four years of piano lessons by then and understood music. He prepared the band teacher for what he should expect.
The teacher consultant who was instrumental in placing Will in the gifted program in our district because he was clearly gifted, despite his autistic tendencies which appeared to outsiders to be shocking immaturity.
The band teacher who stuck with Will for 7 years from middle school through his senior year in high school and, as Will gave Mr. G credit in his Valedictorian address, for teaching him to work hard on his music and always do his best.
The youth pastor who cared for our kids and included them in many activities, including mission trips to Tennessee to prepare a camp for needy children for the summer. The youth sponsors who mentored our children.
My sister who babysat our children for weekends at a time twice year so that Ralph and I could get time away. She understood that they needed a sitter well into their teen years.
My mother and father who bragged about our kids to anyone who would listen.
The special ed director at Mary’s new district for the regional autism program who suggested that Mary be signed up for the Reading for the Blind program, because he sensed that although she could not read, she could understand narrative and that would be prepare her for reading in the future.
The teacher’s aid who saved Mary from choking, and who also helped her develop a reading “bank” of words that she could recognize by sight. (Mary could not learn by phonics due to severe auditory processing deficits and speech impairments). This required tedious repetition and perseverance. But by the end of 7th grade, Mary had a word bank of 180 words. By the end of 8th grade, she had a word bank of 600 meaningful words. In 9th grade, Mary read The Lord of the Rings, with the help of tapes, and the books themselves. After that, Mary began checking books in that genre out of the library, reading 30 or 40 books a year.