I recently had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Texas under the auspices of helping one of my clients to “transition” to her new school. I must admit that I was less than prepared for the trip; it was right smack in the middle of a very busy summer for me, and it was a short trip too, so I thought I would just show up, go to the school, sputter out as much information as I could in 2 days, and then return home.
I was totally unprepared for the gamut of emotions that I experienced, which started with my client and her mom picking me up from my hotel the first morning. When I sat down in the car, Suzy (name has been changed) turned to me and said, “Ms. Jill, are you staying with us forever?” I was immediately struck by this simple and yet complex display of emotion from a child who has been given the “stamp” that says that emotions and communication will be hard for her for the rest of her life. With tears in my eyes, I said, “No, this is just a visit. But I can always come back!”
With that huge bubble that gets stuck in your throat when you are trying not to cry, I entered the school and was introduced to her preschool teacher. Ms. Smith greeted me with a warm hug and told me how lucky the school and the family was to have me there. She offered me a donut, quickly swept all of her stuff off her desk and told me sit down and get comfortable. In the mean time, Suzy had run off and was playing with a group of kids. While other children were crying or hanging on to their mothers, Suzy had gone and began playing with gusto (a skill that we had worked on very hard here in Virginia!)
The rest of the day involved a revolving door of the various team members coming into the classroom and introducing themselves to me. Another poignant moment was the time that another team member entered the room and sat quietly next to me, watching the kids. After several moments, she leaned over to me and said, “Which one is Suzy?” I quickly pointed her out, and then thought to myself, “Wow, I actually had to point her out.” A year ago, Suzy would not need an introduction, as she would be the one trying to run out of the room, grab something that she shouldn’t have, or was otherwise screaming. To me, this moment spoke volumes.
After the school day was over, we had essentially, an IEP meeting. The team was again very welcoming and stated that they simply wanted to pick my brain regarding Suzy. At one point, Ms. Smith started talking about how every student has a piece of gold inside of them, and they are just waiting for someone to find it and pull it out so that they can shine. As I looked over at Suzy’s mom with tears in her eyes, I started tearing up too. I have to say, this is the first time in an IEP meeting that I had cried tears of joy!
That night, I think I slept like a ton of bricks. I was so surprised with all of the emotions that I had felt that day…
My second and final day was much the same as the first. I stayed in the classroom with Suzy and continued to give the teacher small tips and tricks to help Suzy to continue to be successful. As the day started coming to an end, I started to get that bubble in my throat again. I didn’t want to leave Suzy, but yet I was so happy and proud of the little girl who she had become. Her teachers didn’t realize the struggles that Suzy’s family had been through the past year and all of the tears and anger and sadness and sacrifices. They didn’t realize that a year ago, Suzy hardly spoke. All they saw was a normal girl, playing with her friends. And to me, that’s all that I could ask for.