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Saturday, January 22, 2011

My decision to be a Special Education Teacher..

There are many things that influenced my decision. It was definitely not my first choice.. I wanted to be in the medical field for the longest time, but then I realized I wasn't good with blood or vomit, so I am definitely not cut out for the medical field. I was kind of in lala land as far as a career choice goes. I have always liked working with little kids. So I started thinking about teaching. My mom was a special education teacher herself, but no longer is because she gave that up when she had me. She has been a stay at home mom since then. I never really talked to her about it much though. I was in an Early Childhood Education class at my high school, and in 11th grade we went to the schools to intern. As we were having our classes figured out for us my teacher asked the class if anyone would be willing to be placed in a special education class. I was apprehensive at first because I had never been in a setting with a bunch of tiny kids with special needs. But no one raised their hand.. I literally mean no one. I knew that I would be comfortable in the setting even if it was more difficult than a traditional classroom, so I raised my hand.

Some of you know my brother, and I have mentioned him in passing on here a few times, but I have never really talked about him. He is the reason I knew I would be comfortable in a special education classroom. My brother is only 13 months younger than me, and he was born with Down Syndrome (I don't think I ever spell that right). 1 out of every 1000 people has this. It is a genetic abnormality that prevents him from ever having a "normal" life from the beginning. I think most people know what Down Syndrome is and probably even know someone with it because it is fairly common. Now to me this was my brother that I grew up with, and I didn't even realize he was any different from me or anyone else. Then, when he was about 6 his ability to walk started to deteriorate. Now he was always a little bit behind, but once he mastered a motor skill he never lost that ability. My parents knew something was wrong.. they took him to doctor after doctor. Finally the answer was found.. he was diagnosed with Legg Perthes Disease. 1 in every 1200 people are affected by this. It is a disease which causes the ball of the femur to begin to deteriorate. This then allows the femur to slip out of socket from the pelvis. They scheduled surgery for my brother, but it wasn't just a simple surgery that could be done right away. They had to schedule it with T.C. Thompsin Children's hospital in Atlanta. Before he could have the surgery he quit walking all together. When he was seven he had the surgery. The put the leg back into place with a ton of metal skrews and plates. Then he was put into an almost full bdy cast. It started at his chest and ran to his knee on one leg and his ankle on the other. He was in this cast for six months unable to move. Once he finally got the cast off he was not out of the woods yet. He was still no where near walking again. He was confined to a wheelchair while induring months of physical therapy.
During all of this something changed in my brother. He was not the loving playful brother I used to have. At first we all assumed it was because of the surgery, but he wouldn't give hugs anymore, wouldn't make eye contact, wouldn't say the words he could say before. It was like he regressed into a shell. I am no exactly sure when, but at some point we found out that he had developed Autism. I cannot explain how dramatically different Autism makes a person. It was like my brother had been replaced. It really took some getting used to. He rarely shows affection, wants to be left alone, cannot be subject to loud noises (and if he is he will go into a rage.. hitting, punching, kicking, throwing things, screaming). It is to the point now that going in public is a rare thing for him. I have been hit numerous times.. when I was pregnant kicked me in the stomach once, and another time he grabbed me an hit me in the middle of Best Buy then threw himself out of his wheel chair kicking and screaming. He used to do this sort of stuff to my mom a lot, but the last time (several months ago) he started hitting my mom she accidentally ended up knocking him down. He hasn't touched her since. I cannot trust him around my daughter either.. when my sister was about Grace's age my step-father was supposed to be watching them play on the trampoline, but he didn't and my brother threw my sister off the trampoline. On Thanksgiving they were getting ready to leave, the little boy from down stairs screamed and Cody kicked Grace knocking her down. I think it scared her more than anything, but it was still pitiful.
Now with all of this being said.. he is still my brother. For some reason he was delt an awful hand in life. I often wonder why him? Or why not just Down Syndrome, just Legg Perthes Disease, or just Autism? The combonation of the three has taken my brother from me. He is trapped inside of his own body.. barely able to speak, walk, or control himself. No one should have to live a life like that.
Luckily he can walk some, but not for long distances. Maybe 15 minutes at the most. And the leg the the surgery was performed on is not growing properly now. It is about an inch shorter than the other, so he has to have special shoes to help him keep his balance. Because of all of these things he mostly rides in a wheel chair when he is out in public. It is also easier to control him when he is in a wheel chair.
I didn't mean to make him sound psycho.. he really is a sweet boy. It's just loud noises that send him into a rage. If we keep the loud noises away from him he is fine. He loves to play on the computer, and watch movies, but only certain movies. Annie and Peter Pan are his favorites. He talk some, but he is not capable of carrying a conversation. I would give just about anything to have just one conversation with my brother.

One crutial thing I learned from my brother is that people with disabilities are people too. I would never make fun of a person with a disbility. This is why I knew I would feel comfortable in setting with children who have disabilities.. What I did not anticipate was loving being in that setting! I absolutely loved those children. There were different ranges of disabilities from speach impediments (this was the majority of the class), behavior problems, Down Syndrome, Autism, blindness, and the most severe was a little girl named Shayna.. she had contracted menegitis at birth. It spread to her brain and she could not sit up, walk, or talk. They also said she has been diagnosed as blind, but I never believed that (an neither did the lady I was iterning for). At first I was very standoff-ish around Shayna because I didn't know anything about her condition, but I would talk to her, and try to play with her. One day she was out ofher chair and laying on a bean bag. I was talking to her and the teacher told me to pick her up. I did and from that moment on I knew I wanted to an early childhood special education teacher. When I would talk to her she would look at me. Blind people will naturally turn their ear to you. I brought this up to the teacher and she said that she didn't believe she was completey blind either. One day Shayna wasn't there, and I never saw her again after that.. she had taken a turn for the worse. At one point they said they didn't think she was going to make it. Last I know she was improving and still alive, but I don't know if she is now or not. I really wish I did. There was also one little girl, named Fernanda, who never talked. I took a special interest in her as well. And one day we were looking out the window together and she said "rain" (it was raining). She also said "bus." It was amazing to know that I was the one who got her to talk. Mrs. Butler told me that I was a natural, and that she thought I would be an amazing special ed teacher. I miss that class so much. I cannot wait to have a class of my own! I want to help children like my brother, Shayna, and Fernanda.

I have pictures of the kids from my class somewhere. If I can find them I will post them on here..

3 comments:

  1. Way to go finding something you want to do and going for it. I am going for nursing but it is not even close to what i want to do.

    Reading that about your brother makes me want to cry. Im sorry.

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  2. That story about your brother is so sad. I never knew the whole story. I think you will do well at being a special education teacher. That is awesome you got a chance to see if you would like it. I Loved Mrs. Hendricks class, but it made realize that I am not cut out to be a teacher, at least not in a daycare. I didn't enjoy it very much.

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  3. Didn't mean to make everyone sad lol. To me he is just my brother.. I don't even really think about it until I talk about it sometime like this.. or when Grace is around. I have to keep distance between them. But other than that I am just used to it now. I think the thing that makes me most upset about it are the people who stare or make comments.. sadly it's usually adults, not kids like you would think it would be.

    I really never thought I would like teaching, and I wouldn't if it was above elementary school. I would not do well in a middle or high school.

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