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Last Updated: 02/23/2018

 Inspirational Stories

Things Can Only Get Better

Name Withheld  - Massachusetts, USA

[back to inspiration]


I'm not a writer, but I do have a story to share.  When I first started out in the special education field I had the opportunity to work with a little girl that nobody else wanted to take time with.  She was diagnosed as having autism and she was also deaf.  


I was volunteering as a summer camp aide one summer and had to deliver mail to the office regarding the children's background information.  I normally don't read the material, but I had to wait in the office, so I looked through the pile and found her submission sheet.  The office had checked that they were going to "reject her for camp" because they didn't have the staff to give her the care she needed.  She was prone to violent tantrums and had little in the way of communicative ability.  Without a second thought I volunteered to  be her one-to-one aide.  I knew a little bit of sign language and had just started working with kids with autism a few months before.  I wasn't really qualified, but they let me have the job.


When I went to her home to meet her, she was huddled on the living room couch, her head in her lap, rocking and humming loudly.  Her mother grabbed her arm and forced her face upwards to meet me. She had her eyes closed still, effectively shutting herself out from the world.  As I sat and spoke with her parents (who spoke in broken English) I noticed that she had moved from the couch to the floor and was looking at me.  I smiled and she smiled back.  Then she ran and hid behind the couch again.


I showed up the next day, fully expecting a tantrum and a difficult morning.   She stood at the door with her mother, smiling, and signed "hello" and her name sign.  I signed hello back, and my name sign.  She took my hand, and we started off for camp.


The first few days were a whirlwind of trying to figure out how to communicate with her, how to adapt camp activities, how to handle her tantrums.  By the middle of the week, a few of her fellow campers had taken an interest in playing with her.  She looked so happy when they took her off to the swings, or the see-saws that I could hardly keep from crying.  I ended up staying with her, as her home therapist for almost 4 years.  She  was truly an amazing the time I left she was able to go in public with her family (before she would tantrum in public to the point where they couldn't taker her anywhere...or she would run away and they would have to have the police find her and bring her home), she could make her bed and her lunch, use the bathroom, shower, do her homework, play with her siblings, and sign and nearly age level.  


As much as she learned (according to assessments and evaluations), she didn't learn nearly as much as I did as a teacher.  Working with her taught me a greater patience and appreciation for every small gain a child can make than I can possibly express.  Everyone had given up on her, and for whatever reason, she chose me to help her prove them all wrong.


I guess what I'm saying is that no matter how bleak the outlook seems, there is always hope.  There is always a rainbow after the storm.  I know that a  lot of school systems, who lack the funding, the teachers, the training and  insight, often become convinced of a child's inability's and loose sight of what they can do.  Even if it's just the smallest thing, like blinking their eyes to say "yes," look at it as a starting point.  Things can only get better from there.


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