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Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Last night I had the privilege of being part of an evening of reflection for our school staff.  Many parts of this evening were touching and eye-opening, but one particular part of the evening stood out for me because it's something I think of often.

In discussing different ways that we encounter our faith,  I began thinking of my students and all of the different ways I see God in them.  As each of these kids walk in my door each day, I realize over and over again how different they all are, and how many different things they need from me.  I'm not sure if all teachers see this so blatantly, or if God has just given me a gift to see it more clearly.  I see it, I feel for them, and I adapt and adjust to what they need.  Plain and simple:  I do this solely because if it were my child who needed something from his teacher each day, I'd hope he was respected and understood enough to receive it.  I am so thankful for this gift that I've been given, and I hope I use it to the best of my ability.

This year, my mix of kids is interesting, varied, and exercising that gift all day long.  One of them, in particular, has Asperger's Syndrome.  He has been in school with the same kids in this sweet, private school since pre-K.  The kids know he's different.  It's obvious.  That's about all they knew until this year.  This year, their eyes have been opened to understand, support, and encourage those who are "differently-abled" as his mom prefers him to be described.  At the beginning of the year, I saw kids who just shrugged at his quirkiness, still being respectful, but not understanding all the time.  These are 4th graders.  They are certainly old enough to understand.  We decided to educate them about their classmate.  One day, when he had a doctor's appointment, we gathered all 64 of our kids.  I presented a slide show about Asperger's Syndrome (but this kid in particular). 

He's super smart, makes fantastic grades on the same exact tests, not modified.  {{Really?  I didn't think he knew much of anything.}}.  His writing is illegible because of his dysgraphia.  {{Oh...that's why he uses the computer for some lessons.  I get it.}}  He thinks you are all his best friends, and he thinks he's playing with you when he is just running alongside your game. {{He does that?  I never noticed?}} His hands don't work as well as yours do.  He can't get the words out of his brain like you can.  His BRAIN IS ACTUALLY DIFFERENT THAN YOURS.  He's not contagious.  He's not upset because of any of these differences.  He's just different.  We're all different.  He is expected to perform the same daily tasks and follow the same school rules.  We can help him to feel like a part of our class, instead of an outsider.  {{How can I help?}}

From then on, the kids have made a daily effort to help, encourage, guide, and befriend our friend.  Even more than that, they've transferred that acceptance to others who are "differently-abled".  Today was our boy's birthday.  When he walked into the door, I simply told him happy birthday.  He said, "Oh!  You remembered!"  After that, with no prompting from me, the entire class erupted in a wonderfully loud "Happy Birthday To You" song {{tears!}}.  He was thrilled, but quickly moved on to pass out invitations to his party.  He was given 24 invites just for homeroom.  Not enough.  The kids who did not get one (in other classes) were asking for one.

I am so proud of the change that took place in these kids this year, and I hope they keep and use the gift.  If you haven't ever explained another child's differences to your children, take the time to do it.  They will understand.  If you don't know enough to explain it, look it up together.  Learn together.  God could have chosen to give any one of us a child with special needs.  Take the time to understand.  It can make your child a much more understanding child on the playground.  We're all different.  God wanted it that way.  We're all differently-abled:)



  1. Magnifique!!! It brings tears to my eyes! I do have a differently-abled student in my class, he has the tourrette syndrome, and is very smart! I applaude for what you have accomplished in your classroom!!! What a lesson of acceptance!!! Merci for sharing! Catherine