Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Calling all humans with passion and heart

It's a devastating, exciting time in the world right now. Isn't it funny how the world often works both sides of an extreme?

Autism prevalence is on the rise. Skyrocketing. If you follow the stats you may get whiplash. Yes, one teeny, tiny percent of that rise is better detection and diagnosis. But the bulk of that whopping number is unknown. The "N" in the equation. And that is the frightening part. I remember the first moment I realized it was autism. It felt as if we had been hit by random gunfire. We were devastated and mourned the life we had expected to have.

And now just a few years later, we have worn our own path in the grass while traveling on this life adventure. A path we didn't want to create. You see, we wanted to follow one that already existed- but that isn't be the case for us. It will never be the case for us. Most parent's of children with Special Needs understand this reality intimately.

As the numbers increase, so does the need for therapists and teachers. This is the exciting part. There is no better medicine for children with Special Needs than education and LOVE. Because the truth is, Teachers- YOU play one of the most important roles in these kiddos entire life. You often spend more time with our children than we do. You have the ability to make their lives exceptional. I've had the honor to work alongside many of these professionals. They inspire me to do better. To be better.

Educators- I've seen the absolute MAGIC you can create in our daily lives. You watch our babies struggle and figure out how to specifically meet their needs. Not doing for them- which is easier and faster- but teaching them to do for themselves. You donate your soul for the well being of our children- a little at a time. I want you to know I see what you are doing, and I'm humbled, grateful and amazed.

I know that not all parents are open, willing, and appreciative of your skill, your wisdom, and your input. I've met these parents, and I don't understand it either. I imagine that is heartbreaking for you- donating your soul to these families and having it neglected or ignored. You may find yourself caring more than the parents. In some ways, those kids need you most. Keep doing what you know is right. And please, please remember, your worth is more than gold to families like us.

But we still need LOADS more Teachers, Therapists and professionals.  Incredible teachers with passion and heart. WE NEED YOU. It's never to late to get the training needed to teach if you feel like it might be your calling. I don't care if you're 17 or 70. I don't care if you had the best grades in your class. I just need you to be strong and loving and possess passion, and heart. I've realized that pretty much anything can be taught, except for those two things. If you have a spirit for helping, for education, for teaching and for world changing- I urge you to explore a career working with people with Special Needs. We already have a significant shortage of Teachers with this particular passion. It's not for everyone. But if you feel even one tiny spark of interest- EXPLORE IT.

Teaching children who are inherently smart and learn easy is good for the ego. Teaching a child with special needs- one that learns slowly. One that makes you reevaluate your approach again and again, one that will challenge you to the very depth of your being- that is good for the soul. I believe it's also the stuff that life is made of.

I've also encountered teachers and professionals who are checked out. Who quit playing the game but won't get off the field. Maybe they had that passion and that fire but the system beat it out of them and turned it to apathy. As a parent, handing your child over to this person is heartbreaking. It feels like you are stuck sinking in the middle of the pool, your legs won't work and you are desperately trying to kick your way to the surface. You see- there's a downside to playing one of the most important roles in their life- you can create just as much bad as good. And if your fire to teach has extinguished completely, as a parent there's nothing I can do to make it reignite.

That's why I make this plea. WE NEED MORE INCREDIBLE TEACHERS!!! Here's the truth- Teaching Special Needs children is like playing with unicorns. You can only hope that a little bit of their magic might rub off on you. These kids- my eyes well up just thinking of so many that I've met.

Kids like Alyssa.

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You're smiling right now- aren't you. This gal is human love. Her Momma says that behind that contagious smile is a hardworking and determined girl who clocks in more hours learning and in therapies every week than most adults.  But, few things ever get her down.  Her gift is her silly personality and kind soul.  It is guaranteed anyone in her presence will walk away feeling happier and more loved.

And Alyssa's mom Zoua is the most spirited pioneer I've met. She does whatever it takes to make sure Alyssa has all the tools she needs to succeed. And she does it with a smile as big as Alyssa's on her face.

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And this precious boy with big chocolate-colored eyes is Dominic. He is happiest when he's outside. He loves to swing and feed the birds. His Momma shares some of the many things her sweet son has taught her, "I am not perfect. I can't change the unchangeable. I've got to be loving, even when loving back is not always granted. I've got to be humble. I've got to see the light, even when it's so dark around."

If you enter a career in Teaching you can also teach kids like my boys.

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My Parker. Who makes me smile pretty much every time I say his name out loud. This kid is happier than any other human I know. But he can also be stubborn and scream louder and higher than a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert. He is my nature boy, and he reminds me how important it is to soak up life and explore.

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And Grey. His determination leaves me in awe. I love watching him solve problems- like when something doesn't fit and he turns it over again and again until it works. He works investment banker hours. He's the fastest, slowest learner I've encountered.

Be warned- these kids will change you. They will grow your heart ten times bigger. You may realize you never really knew up from down after meeting them. You will be challenged. You will be delighted. You will realize your beliefs about the world aren't what you first thought. You will be cracked wide open to a love and passion you never knew existed. And when these kids learn- when they finally get it- it's a feeling like absolutely no other.  No words could describe this joy, this elation, this liquid magic that feeds your soul. And that goodness builds up and you store it, and it feeds you through the challenging times.

This is an exciting time. With the rise of autism, also comes a deep need for exceptional education. Every city, every town, every single child needs the love and patience that only teachers can provide. You have an opportunity to be a pioneer in revamping the entire education system in special needs. A system that right now is extremely broken. These children desperately need people with a fire in their belly and passion that shines through their eyes. Kids like Alyssa, Dominic, Greyson, Parker and millions more. They need you to help create something exceptional.

You may find that you are the one who walks away learning the most.


  1. I am 38 and have been thinking of going back to school, starting over, and it's scary. But I have watched what speech and occupational therapy, and good teachers have done for my son and I am inspired. He has no specific diagnosis beyond speech delay and anxiety. As I have spent hours in waiting rooms while he is in therapy, I have had the pleasure of meeting the most amazing, beautiful, and interesting children. I am drawn to special needs children, I don't know why. And I feel more connected to children, other moms and parents in general, and the world since I have had children. So I am looking at the first steps in going back to school. I have been out of the working world so long that I am terrified. But I think I will do it. I am looking at steps to become a speech and language pathologist. Your encouragement is helpful even though it was not aimed at me directly. I was a middle school teacher years ago. Your appreciation for teachers is wonderful! Thank you for writing so honestly and sharing your beautiful and amazing boys. Kate

  2. My husband is a middle school special ed teacher and father to twin boys with aspergers. He went back to school to become a teacher at 38 after years in industry when his boys were only 2. He loves teaching and loves his students. He does not love the high case loads, the ridiculous amounts of paperwork, and the plan to base his pay on this students standardized test scores. He knows he will stay a teacher, but after a decade of special ed,he is considering transitioning to regular ed and is rather heartbroken about it.

  3. As a retired speech-language pathologist, you sent me on a sentimental journey today! I still see the faces and hear the sounds of my precious students. I also was a mentor for several young SLPs just getting into the field, and, to a one, they were dedicated and determined. Thank you for appreciating what we do as much as we enjoy doing it!

  4. My name is Erin and I've been reading your blog for a couple of years now. I have been touched and inspired by many of your posts. They help me understand more about the personal journey the parents of my students are going through. I've been teaching an extended day program for kids with autism, called Project DATA (at the University of Washington's Haring Center- EEU) for the past 5 years and have worked in special education for 12 years. Thank you for always being so open to sharing your story. My school has recently been told that we will be losing our public school funding for our kindergarten program. We are the only fully inclusive program in Seattle. While it's been a frustrating and sad couple of weeks, we are also trying to build hope and get a larger message of inclusion out there for all students with special needs. Our website is inclusionmattersnow.tumblr.com and if anyone is interested they can go and submit their stories of why inclusion is important to them. If you are interested, we'd love to share your story as well. Thanks again for all you do!