Thursday, December 8, 2011
Raising a child with special needs often feels like one is trapsing through a wilderness, I have mentioned this before, with few well-worn paths, let alone any tarred roads or sign posts. At times it can be rather lonely as few others are journeying through these parts. So when one meets a person who is willing to journey with you for a season, then you are deeply thankful. And when you realise that, in addition to providing great company, they also come equipped with all sorts of tools and knowledge that make the wilderness less scary, then you know you will forever be grateful that this person walked along side you.
Matt's play group teacher, Debbie, is just such person. I knew from the moment I met her - her warm nature, calm presence and compassionate heart - that Matt would do well in her care. Matt has come to adore Debbie, or as he says Bebbie. There has not been one day he has not wanted to go to school. Matt has grown in more ways that I can imagine - from recognising letters, to forming words and talking, to climbing a ladder, to holding a other children's hands during "Here we go around the mulberry bush", to becoming comfortable with sand and all things squidgy, to understanding what it means to say sorry, to saying hello and bye, to loving books, to completing puzzles, to becoming toilet trained, to learning to count, to realising that other kids are ok to play with. Debbie has been a KEY member of the team of people who have sowed into Matt's life. She has completely integrated him into the group of children in her school. He is treated as an equal, his opinion is sought out, he is expected to participate and give just as every other child. But at the same time Debbie has been able to balance the fact that Matt's learning needs are different and she has helped him become the best Matt that he can be.
I am going to miss my chats with Debbie after school. Helping me see what is "just normal kids stuff", and what "is special needs". Advice on anything from potty training, to where to buy a good sun hat. Giving me feedback on Matt - remembering what he did or said that would be of interest to me. Pointing me in the direction of a pre-primary school for Matt and opening doors where she could. Constantly thinking about how best we can help Matt reach his potential.
So it is with great sadness that I said goodbye to her today after Matt's last day at this school. The sorrow I feel shows just how valuable this experience has been. If it were not of such great worth, it would be easy to leave with a simple goodbye.
It is totally for Matt's benefit that we move on from Debbie's playgroup, as much as I would love him to stay there forever, we know that Matt has more learning, growing and exploring to do. Thus our path continues through the wilderness and Debbie will no longer travel alongside us as she has been for the last 18 months. But though we will miss her , I am very conscious of the lasting gifts that she has imparted to Matt and me; gifts that will stay with us for many years.