How One Teacher Made the Difference in this Autisitc Teen’s Life

Pierrette and I thank Tracy Palmer for her guest post telling us her story and for sharing her beautiful poem for the teacher that made all the difference. Today I will post only part of her story, the part about how grateful Ms. Palmer is to the teacher that finally made a difference in their lives. During this first part of May, folks are sharing stories for Teacher Awareness Week and National Teacher Day  and Tracy Palmer’s poem if perfect to show the positive effect one caring teacher can have.

You will be touched by this mother’s poem to thank her son’s SENCO (special educational needs coordinator). She says she believes this teacher was an ANGEL in disguise. Hope you find such a teacher for your child with special needs!

Read Tracy Palmer’s complete guest post, Diagnosis of Autism, Dyspraxia, Sensory Issues, and ADHD in Final Year of School by Tracey Palmer here.

How Did My Son Fall Between the Cracks

Why was it not spotted? Why did I not defend and question my child’s behaviour? Why did I not demand answers? Speech therapy was not needed; he started to speak in sentences with words I had to look up in the dictionary. He was tested by a school psychologist, but nothing was ever fed back to me only that he was in the top 2% of his school, and because of this and the fact he just aced everything he ever tried (except for sports, he has dyspraxia too !), he just slipped through the net……I should have done something………….

All through his primary education, I sat back and left my child to struggle with his sensory issues, sensory issues I did not know he had.  Guilt is one of my biggest issues (one of many Sara said I would experience).

Secondary school (age 11-16), he kept on getting top marks; he was entered into statistics maths exam at the age of 13 and he passed with flying colours! He still didn’t have any friends. I tried every week to bring his classmates home for tea; he played in one room, they played with me in the other. AGAIN, why did I accept this?

I had to take him out of Scouts. He had been in several years, but a new leader did not want the extra ‘work’ that Cliff appeared to need.  They ridiculed and teased him….AGAIN I did nothing, I just thought it was part of ‘kid’ angst.

Cap and diploma - Diagnosis of Autism, Dyspraxia, Sensory Issues , and ADHD in Final Year of SchoolIn his final year at school (2010), a newly appointed SENCO (special educational needs coordinator), (I believe an Angel in disguise) came back from an Autism course. She was full of energy and advocacy and made an appointment to see us. She suggested that my son may be on the Autistic spectrum; Cliff had spoken to her and wanted her to brooch the subject with us. Here is where denial kicked in!  I did not want a label…

How I Felt About the Diagnosis

The SENCO  wrote out a 20 page document  highlighting Cliff’s behaviour in school. Then we had three visits to the educational psychologist, and February 2010, he received his diagnosis of Aspergers, dyspraxia, sensory integration difficulties and mild ADHD.

A question I have asked several people, and I am still not really sure I understand …why now?

Many of the people and professionals I meet, including Sara, have told me whatever we did as a family, helped Cliff throughout his school life and that we ought to be proud that we managed as we did, and how much he has achieved through all the adversity he has gone through ALONE!

Guilt again sets in……he has never really been a ‘happy’ child, IF I had done ‘something’, would he have been happier? Would his journey have been ‘kinder’ for him?

How Does His Future Look

I am awestruck at his achievements… and I am a proud Aspie mother. He has top academic marks, excels in many areas in music, performed in the local theatre, and has performed in the Oswestry festival four times now, several Christmas concerts and several summer concerts.

He wants to go to University. He has mentioned London …Royal College of Music.  He wants to do Music and Psychology; then he wants to become a Music Therapist. Wow, I am so proud.

I KNOW academically he is capable but I am so scared. He cannot tie his laces, I have to lay his clothes out, he can’t brush his teeth without gagging, his personal hygiene (well!!), he struggles to cross the road, and he still hasn’t any friends. Now he is not being bullied, and college students are more accepting of his idiosyncrasies.  However he still forgets things are hot, he is so trusting and naive….how can I let him go….

How I Thanked My Angel in Disguise

The poem flowed from me, and only took only twenty minutes to write. I did not need to rewrite; the words just seemed to write themselves. I left it out for my hubby to read as he was working nights. He read it and had to wake me, we just held one another that night with tears flowing, and the emotional release was powerful.

This is my poem written for my Son and the Angel of a Teacher that first spotted his ‘diffability’. Our son was 16 years old, diagnosed in February 2010.

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Rara Avis (for you both)

He tried very often to try to fit in,
The gift of a friendship, he never did win.
He took solace in Music, it was his soul.
The grasp of awareness, he just could not hold.

He struggled at playtime and finding his way,
In his own little space, by himself all day.
He read and he read, often two at a time,
“Oh, that’s just him, he won’t toe the line”.

Imagine a world without conversation,
No one talking to you, alone as a Spaceman.
In a world that is different and totally strange,
Not BLACK or WHITE, but slightly orange.

Imagine not understanding the reason why,
No one stopping and sharing, not even a “Hi”.
Because he is different, they call him a freak,
ALL his life,… LEFT…,to turn the other cheek.

Reciting FULL episodes of things that he likes,
No football or cricket, not even a bike.
Solving maths problems in the blink of a eye,
Not eating with others, he just could not try.

ALONE and forgotten and misunderstood,
THEY should have been kinder, I wish that they would.
Into the wide world, he will have to go,
How we shall manage…I just do not know.

THEN, from the clouds of Heaven above, an Angel appeared,
The World just stopped still, and our Family cheered.
SHE saw a light in our child’s eyes,
With empathy and structure, her name Gaynor Styles.

She showed us the light and his unique gift.
She guided us forward, my heart it did lift.
IF not for her, where would we be still…?
NOW onward and upward, over that hill.

OUR thirst for knowledge, our hunger to succeed.
To give Clifford confidence, all the skills he will need.
AS we strive forward, we will think of you,
YOU gave us the start, You made Clifford “new”.

REMEMBER us with fondness through the passing years,
The Student who was frustrating, did he bring you to tears?
OFF to College and Uni? IMAGINE all our fears !.
OUR SON Clifford, the boy with Aspergers.


Love and stuff,
Tracy Palmer

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