Shining Bright: Celebrating a Special Helper

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     Today I want you to meet a former student of mine who is now in high school. As a student in my class, he loved to be a helper and loved to be involved in group projects with his friends. We started each day as kids entered the room with the song, “Thank You For Being a Friend” written by Andrew Gold in 1978. He loved being a friend and loved learning together with his friends.

     One of his favorite learning activities was when we offered a monthly lunch to the school staff members as a way to learn daily living skills.  The staff members preordered their food, and my class would prepare the food, package the lunches, and then deliver them to the staff.  We called this monthly event “Time to Dine with 109” because that was my room number. This guy wanted to be involved in every step, from food prep to delivering the meals.


Q: What is one thing you wish teachers know about your child that is not on the IEP?
A: He loves being a helper but he can be impish when you ask him. He spends a lot of time around women and really enjoys getting praised or told he’s cool by guys.

Q: Scores on tests do not define the child. What is something your child is really good at that is not reflected on tests?
A: He’s really good with directions and can direct me to most of the places we go and also knows how to make food but just needs assistance with the stove and knowing where the ingredients are

Q: How important is homework for your child? Is it just a burden, or is it a helpful learning tool?
A: he likes doing the homework & it’s a nice routine but I’m not sure how much ingo he retains

Q: How old was your child when you first knew he/she had special needs?
A: around 4 months when he wasn’t acting like the other kids at his daycare

Q: What is one piece of advice you have for someone who has a newly diagnosed child?
A: take things 1 day at a time, you don’t need all the answers immediately so learn as you go and ask the questions you have as they come up

Q: What is one meal that everyone in your family likes to eat?
A: egg sandwiches, tacos & cheese quesadillas

Q: What advice do you have for interacting with children with special needs?
A: go slow & take your time – it can be hard to get to know someone who doesn’t have needs and sometimes you learn more by going 1 day at a time

Q: What activities do you recommend to other parents to foster self-care?
A: I found a gym where I can take him with me and people interact with him & I also found a few good sitters that I use on days when I need some downtime

Q: Are there any support groups that you recommend for parents or children?
A: Zanes Foundation based in Silver Lake & integrated community solutions

Q: What are your favorite family activities?
A: we like hiking, going on road trips, seeing museums, and riding cable cars at amusement parks

     He was always the first one to volunteer to help. From folding laundry, running errands, or helping with Time to Dine, he was my go-to helper, and I am happy to know he still likes being a helper in school. At the high school, he now works in their cafe. He takes people’s orders and does other jobs. His mom reports he now tells HER that they need to wash their hands before making their meals. All those post-Covid talks paid off! 

     This mom says to go slow and take your time. This is great advice. She found a gym where she could take him with her and a few good babysitters to use when she needed downtime. Knowing what both you and your child need is important. These two go on great vacations and have found a mutual love of hiking. This is a guy that if you are lucky enough to know, you will say, “Thank you for being a friend.”