Thursday, September 17, 2009

Solving the Puzzle

As I've mentioned before, my son attends the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School for Autism in Cleveland, OH. It is an amazing school with an outstanding reputation for helping children with Autism reach their potential. But how? I could talk about their curriculum which is highly individualized to truly meet each child's educational needs. Or I could talk about their state of the art facility which was designed specifically to address these children's sensory needs. But the real reason these children make such progress is because of the dedicated therapists that work with them daily.

My son goes to school year-round - which means his CBTs (classroom behavioral therapists) work year-round too. Lets be clear...their job is not a walk in the park; in fact, they probably deserve hazard pay. Many of these children, like my son, suffer from extreme behaviors brought on by frustration and anxiety. Behaviors like: screaming, biting, hitting, pulling hair, scratching, get the idea. This alone would scare off many educators, but not these therapists. They understand these children. They understand that all behavior is communication and they are determined to give these children a more appropriate voice. The level of care that they show is genuine and their dedication is endless. They work tirelessly to implement one strategy after another until they find the one that works for their student, knowing that these children have tremendous potential if given the right tools.

In the Autism community we use puzzle pieces as symbols for Autism. The Autism Society of American explains that: "The puzzle pattern reflects the mystery and complexity of the autism spectrum. The different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope—hope that through increased awareness of autism, and through early intervention and appropriate treatments, people with autism will lead fuller, more complete lives." As I watched my son walk into school today with his favorite therapist, Frank, I couldn't help but think that these are the people that are actually solving the puzzle - even if it is only one piece at a time.

1 comment:

  1. "As the old man walked the beach at dawn, he noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Finally catching up with the youth, he asked him why he was doing this.

    The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun.

    "But the beach goes on for miles and there are millions of starfish," countered the other. "How can your effort make any difference?"

    The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to safety in the waves.

    "It made a difference to that one," he said.

    - Anonymous
    This is how I see every single one of Owen's therapists and teachers. Starfish Flingers. Every year at the end of the year, I give them a copy of this story and something starfish related- a pin, a necklace, a charm for a bracelet, a keychain, a photo of Owen with a Starfish border... you get the drift. Becasue they need to know they make a difference. Every. Single. Day.