Teachers have a powerful role in a child’s life. An amazing teacher believes that the impossible is possible and that any child is capable of anything. Debbie’s preschool experience was anything but that and for me it was hard to believe in my daughter and her capabilities when the message was a consistent, “She can’t. She isn’t. She won’t.” Both Autism and her teacher’s lack of faith were stopping Debbie from learning, achieving, and growing as far as I was concerned. But then one day something changed.
One person can make a difference in someone’s life. Words can make or break someone’s spirit. When Debbie started Kindergarten we determined that she would stay in the Early Intervention program. She would be included for related arts and center time. I thought she ought to be included for more academics but that wasn’t the way the program was structured. “Fine,” I thought, “As long as we are getting Debbie the hell out of your classroom, we’re good.” So into the EIK program Debbie went. I didn’t know anything about the teacher but decided that since a new school year and a new teacher were upon us I should at least attempt to make the best of it.
We met Debbie’s new teacher at Back to School Night and her first words to us were incredibly profound. She said, “The Debbie that was described to me is not the Debbie in my classroom.” Wait! What? Can you repeat what you just said? I don’t think I heard you correctly. She went onto say, “Debbie is capable of so much more than what her last teacher told me. She has a lot of skills and a lot of knowledge. We just need to figure out how to bring it out of her. I truly believe in her and I know if we work together she will grow so much this year.” These words opened my eyes to the idea that what was impossible could become possible. She could move from can’t to can and achieve things that we were told she would never be able to do.
Debbie thrived that year in her Early Intervention Kindergarten program. Her teacher believed in her, encouraged her, and most importantly loved her. Debbie started talking more. She started engaging with the world around her and every day instead of hearing what she wasn’t doing, we heard what she was doing. Slowly but surely I became a little less angry and a little more accepting. Autism was a mountain, an obstacle in our way. Now I needed to figure out how I was going to go around it so that Debbie could stay on her successful path and continue to grow and thrive. What was the next step going to be when Early Intervention Kindergarten ended? What was this Autism Warrior Momma going to do to keep the momentum going? The answer was right in front of me. I just needed to convince a lot of people that it could and would work!