For those who have followed the Educating Teddy series, you are familiar with the stories that came before. For those who have not, simply put, some of the stories are of success, but most are of abject failure.
In the Fall of 1998 I began requesting a full-time aide for Ted, two years, two schools, and a due process suit later, in the Fall of 2000, Ted was back at his original school with a full-time aide.
And many times I thought, did it really have to take all that to get a child the supports he needed?
Apparently, it did.
Across life there seems to be a strong relationship between struggle and growth, educating Teddy proved such a relationship.
Fortunately 4th grade marked the beginning of a long and sustained period of growth.
When we returned to Davidson School we found a completely new team of special education teachers and a new principal, all of which had a new attitude. And although I never heard the words spoken, I am convinced we were dealt with very differently after filing the due process suit. Perhaps this new treatment was an unforeseen consequence of communicating to the school system we knew our rights and we were willing to enforce the execution of those rights.
Most signficantly, what we began to experience was not just a blind obedience to the rules, a fearful “We better do this or they might sue us again” attitude. No, that wasn’t it at all. Instead, this new staff had a genuine desire to actually take the time necessary to examine the whys and hows of Teddy’s behavior, to observe him, to listen to what his behavior communicated and then address the concern.
There was a humanity, an individuality that had not been present since Kindergarten. Their efforts were fueled by care and concern, not coercion.
Care and concern are powerful stuff and they can move mountains. Believe me, I saw it happen.
Teddy was both anxious and excited to return to Davidson. He had negative memories of the school, but also, unlike the school he attended the year before, had allies there.
Among those were Mrs. Archer, the school librarian. She was Teddy’s self-appointed watchdog and sanctuary, literally. She saw the events of 1st grade unfold and came to me often voicing both her concern for Teddy and her frustration over the school’s treatment of him. She had observed in both Kindergarten and 1st grade that he never had a problem when he was in the quiet and calm of the library, so when he returned for 4th grade, she saw to it that when the classroom got too much for him, the library would be his designated safe place. She wanted him there, near her, when he was struggling. She carved out a corner for him to keep a book and a bean bag. It was there for him anytime he needed it.
This “safe place” was written into Teddy’s IEP and his aide was allowed to take him when requested.
And speaking of Teddy’s aide, Davidson was also the home of Mrs. Maycrest, Teddy’s Gifted teacher and lead faculty member of Team Teddy. When Teddy was homeschooled the second semester of 1st grade, Mrs. Maycrest insisted Teddy return to Davidson once a week to attend her 3rd grade Gifted class. She specifically wanted him to be with 3rd graders because she recognized he was happier with older students. (During this same time, Mrs. Archer also had Teddy visit weekly to check out books.)
Mrs. Maycrest also hand-selected Macy, Teddy’s new paraprofessional. Macy was a friend of her family’s and Mrs. Maycrest knew her calm temperament would be an ideal match for Teddy. She was right. Teddy and Macy were together from 4th-12th grade and Macy has become a member of our family.
Although we were battle worn upon returning to Davidson, we were also cautiously optimistic. When going through a difficult situation it’s hard to see how it will end well, but it does, and I know this because of my experience educating Teddy.
“It will be okay in the end. If it isn’t okay, it isn’t the end.”
Next: Teddy’s 4th grade IEP