One of the brightest shining stars of this last 9 months (since receiving our diagnosis), has been Noel's teacher, Ms. R. She's been a lighthouse for our often stormy sea.
Ms. R is a first year teacher. She actually attended the workshop we attended about the school, back in March of last year, as a prerequisite for getting a job there. So I remember her, across the room from me, fresh faced and taking in the talk about learning styles and how this school could help to cater to all of them.
When I met her, formally, at the Parent Meeting prior to the first day of the year, I was afraid to tell her. Noel's diagnosis was brand new, and I was still unsure who needed to know, who would use the information to judge him, to label him, to shove him in a corner. And so I shook her hand, and smiled and went home.
When we started looking at private schools last year, it was because we knew that it would be all too easy for Noel to end up in a crowded classroom, labelled as the rowdy, bratty kid and written off as a lost cause. I could not even bear the thought. We chose his school because it would allow him to do his school work from under his desk, if necessary. Because they had a weighted frog available for those who need the sensory input. Because they would allow him to dance his understanding of the number 35.
Even knowing those things, I was tied up in knots when we dropped him off. But still, I said nothing.
At the end of the day, Ms. R greeted me with a smile. An exhausted smile. And I finally let the cat out of the bag. She nodded, put her hand on my arm, and said 'He'll do fine.'
And I believed her. And she's been right. But I truly believe that one big reason that he's done fine is that he has her. Day in and day out, Ms. R has taken the time to get to know Noel, his quirks and his needs, has given hugs when needed and just paid attention to him. If he has a bad day, she shares it with us, but always with a quick note about the positive as well. And then she puts that bad day away, and starts the next day with a clean slate. She gives suggestions for what works at school to try at home. She lets us know exactly what caused a meltdown on any given day, so that we plan for the next one.
And she pushes him. She doesn't let him slip away in his busy classroom, to withdraw or make poor choices. She helps him move slightly from his comfort zone and he does because he knows she'll be there to catch him.
I wish I had the words to thank her. I doubt she knows the burden she lifted from our shoulders - to know we had somewhere to send Noel where he was welcomed, somewhere where we knew he was safe and cared for and challenged. Every single parent of a special needs child needs a Ms. R in their court. I know that if we could we'd take her with us on the rest of the journey.
Stephanie is supposed to write at Robot Tea but instead she spends too much time on Twitter.