The Helper’s Heart: The Journey of a Special Young Man

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The Helper’s Heart: The Journey of a Special Young Man


     This young man was once my student. He would easily get frustrated as a sixth grader, and academic tasks were difficult. He would get mad at me and say, “I done, ok?” so then I knew I shouldn’t push him any further. If he became frustrated,  he would beat his head with his fist, and I would block him so he would not injure himself. In his second year of middle school, this self-injury attempt had stopped, and he began to do therapeutic horseback riding. That was a wonderful thing for him; from that, he learned how to self-regulate, know his left from his right, and develop self-confidence that gave him a sense of peace.  He always liked to be a helper in my class, and in high school, he continued to be a helper and make huge strides in his social and emotional growth. His journey in my class can be found as one of the stories in my book, “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up- Life Lessons from Special Kids.”  I know I did learn a lot from him. He lived with his grandma, a wise and wonderful woman who knew her grandson well. She told me it takes a village to raise this guy. She supported me in my efforts to be the best teacher for this boy. Now his aunt is his guardian. Read her wise words and discover a new place that is a day program for adults with disabilities. It seems like a great place for someone with the heart of a helper.

Q: What is one thing you wish teachers know about your child that is not on the IEP?
A:  Not every child is the same. They don’t all learn in the same way and what works for one may not work for another. Don’t limit yourself or the child to this way or that sometimes you have to get creative and think way outside the box.

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. Helping. All he wants to do is help with anything and everything.  His new program ( AC Passages) is using this to teach him about money and buying things because they take him to the grocery store with them and they let him “help” them pay for the groceries at the store and then they let him “help” them balance it out of the program cash. It was hard for him at first but they used it as “Helping” them so he is all for it.
Q: How important is homework for your child? Is it just a burden, or is it a helpful
learning tool?
A: He doesn’t understand homework. He is not able to read  or write (other than his own name) Anything having to do with him “reading is a trigger for him and he just shuts down completely and begins to have  “behaviors”
Q: How old was your child when you first knew he/she had special needs?
A: Very young.6 months to about 1 year old
Q: What is one piece of advice you have for someone who has a newly diagnosed
A: BREATH!!! Take help when and or where it is offered. You don’t have to do this alone there are other parents out there who are going or have gone through it too and you are NOT ALONE! Ask questions and ask more questions and research your child’s disability learn everything you can. talk to doctors and specialists. Most importantly LOVE your child! Because at the end of the day, they want what we all be LOVED and to be ACCEPTED!!
Q: What is one meal that everyone in your family likes to eat?
A: We call it .. Graduated Chicken Soup. It’s chicken, rice, and cheddar cheese soup and it is a huge hit at our house and never stays too long in the fridge.
Q: What advice do you have for interacting with children with special needs?
A: It’s their world you just happen to be special enough to live in it with them. As far as advice. Love them, Accept them, Protect them, Be their biggest cheerleader, Be their fiercest protector.
Q: What activities do you recommend to other parents to foster self-care?
A: I myself love library alone time. (even if it’s just going to the library and sitting alone in a comfy chair) Find a close friend or even a specialist that you can completely be open and honest with about anything without fear of judgment. take a spa day every couple of weeks something for just you. I like to go to Dunkin and grab a coffee and go the the park and sit on the bench and just breathe and people watch.  Friends are wonderful but sometimes you just need some quiet time to breathe and relax.
Q: What are your favorite family activities?
A.  His program at AC passages keeps him pretty busy during the week so when he is home on the weekends he likes to just kinda veg on the couch. He also likes to go with me to the grocery store or to run errands (because then we can stop and he gets to check the mail which is something he loves to do)

     It is incredible to see how this young man thrives at the AC Passages Day Center program. The mission of this program is to provide a happy place where individuals with developmental disabilities can come to work on their daily living skills in a positive environment, build friendships, exercise, and get out in the community. I saw a picture of this program on Facebook and then realized this former student was in the program, so I asked his aunt about the program.  His grandma and aunt are pleased with the program. It is called AC Passage Enterprises, LLC, in Wadsworth, Ohio. The website is The address is 300 Weatherstone Drive, Unit 108, Wadsworth, Ohio, 44281. It makes me smile whenever I see a picture of him helping someone, knowing that is what he loves doing.