Beyond Graduation: Spotlight on Excellence


Original artwork by Maddie Schultz


Beyond Graduation: Spotlight on Excellence


      Meet this pleasant young man who was recently named “Employee of the Month” in one of his two jobs. He is a hard worker, and when you come to the cafe where he works, he greets you as if you were an old friend. I love to go to this cafe and watch him in action. He has become a great waiter and can greet, serve your food, and bus your table as needed. He has trained other people in these skills, and his expertise fills my heart with joy. He was such a likable boy when he was in my classroom, and to see him develop into this fine young man is a delight to behold. 


Q: What is one thing you wish teachers knew about your child that is not on the IEP?
A: What his body needed to reduce stress and develop distress tolerance.

Q: Scores on tests do not define the child. What is something your child is good at that is not
reflected on tests?
A: Our son has the ability to “read” whether people are genuine or patronizing. He also treats everyone he meets the same way regardless of their social status or abilities.

Q: How important is homework for your child? Is it just a burden, or is it a helpful learning tool?
A: We felt that homework was a burden if it focused on more repetition of academic content but was helpful if it was brief and helped to reinforce a life skill.

Q: How old was your child when you first knew he/she had special needs?
A: He was a toddler.


Q: What is one piece of advice you have for someone with a newly diagnosed child?
A: Although there may be challenges ahead, there are also so many unexpected gifts. Parenting your child needs is a journey, so take advantage of the support, know you’re not alone, and there is no shame. Allow your child to progressively develop independence and autonomy so that they can reach their full potential.

Q: What is one meal that everyone in your family likes to eat?
A: Asian Orange Chicken

Q: What advice do you have for interacting with children with special needs?
A: Do not ignore them or talk down to them in a childish manner.

Q: What activities do you recommend to other parents to foster self-care?
A: Take advantage of or arrange for regular date nights with your spouse or friends away from your child.

Q: Are there any support groups that you recommend for parents or children?
A: We primarily used natural supports such as friends, family, and our church.

Q: What are your favorite family activities?

A: Hiking, trying new restaurants, going to garage sales, and watching cooking shows.


     These parents are wonderfully supportive and have helped this young man become a person who is loved by everyone he meets. He instantly makes new friends wherever he goes, and is full of the kind of good energy that anyone who meets him can enjoy. I liked his mom’s answer to using natural supports because his parents have encouraged him to be the person he is today. He loves to go to new restaurants and is starting to write reviews of the new places he goes. His church family embraces him and encourages him to use his gifts. I see a bright future as this young man continues to develop his talents. I would encourage everyone to stop in at the Grande Cafe and Roastery in Medina to see him and his fellow workers in action. You will be amazed at the wonderful atmosphere with delicious food at this establishment. As his mom said, “Although there may be challenges ahead, there are also many unexpected gifts.”