One Good Teacher Makes All the Difference

Filed Under (Acceptance, Adam, Autism and Learning, Inspiration) by Estee on 14-04-2011

Adam has a new teacher at school. Immediately, she ripped down the clutter on the walls that distracted Adam. She has Adam learning about money, in “taking circles” with the other children. Reports are Adam is doing well in school and wants to pay attention. Before this teacher, we were worried about Adam’s attention and even tried Ritalin for a couple of days. It just took two days and I couldn’t take watching my son transform into a person I didn’t recognize — his eyes glazed over and his legs twitched uncontrollably. Adam lost his joy and personality which seemed like much too big a sacrafice even though he was completing tasks like a robot on speed. I polled numerous parents who do have some success with this and asked how long it actually takes to get the meds “right.” Some parents said “years,” and “never,” because a child continues to grow.

I don’t have the stomach for it. That’s what I’ve learned as Adam’s parent. I look at some parents and see what levels of creativity they have in awe. I can’t muster the energy to build castles, a volcanic model… yet. Okay, I’m not that bad. I do lots of things with Adam. Mainly, I enjoy just being with him — going for walks, to the park, drives, to restaurants, and playing games here at home. I enjoy learning to play music again and Adam often plays the piano next to me — I like that and it comes naturally. In the summer, we enjoy swimming. I just don’t have the stomach for the endless trial and error to get Adam to become “normal.” In the quest for a cure, I have seen that Adam loses his essence. So it’s official: I can love him and have my limitations too.

In my journey, I’ve learned that other people have to be his teachers now. It is good for Adam to learn from others. I see him becoming more independent and communicative at home. I am really good at loving him, and well, being his parent. I get top marks for that, I think. So I’m thrilled that one teacher can make such a big difference — that Adam can pay attention without medication. It should make us all think, as parents, what we can do to help proliferate this need for great teachers and schools — to create lucrative enough opportunities for teachers to want to stay in the profession, and with our kids.

Sure, I don’t know what the future has in store. My ideas of it are always shifting. I’m just trying to have faith that everything will work out the way it is supposed to.

On another note, I’ve been wanting to write that Adam had his ninth birthday party on Sunday. Most of the kids from Adam’s school have never attended a birthday party before. Like them, Adam rarely gets invited to parties. It is but one unfortunate fact of the autistic life that people need to know and understand. I try to create opportunities for socialization and had typical kids in with the group. I hired a company that brings snakes and an alligator in order for the kids to be engaged and kept a lot of structure, which was successful. The “special needs” kids were so grateful and polite. I heard a lot of thank you’s that day.

Later in the week, my mother sat in my kitchen. “That was the loveliest kids birthday party I’ve ever been to,” she said. “The kids were so nice.” Her face changed to a look of awe. “Usually you go to birthday parties with typical kids and they are all spoiled and complaining. These kids were so mature.” I felt eubuillant when she said that because I felt it too. If only everyone knew. If only everyone knew that the kids with challenges are not “behavioural” because they are spoiled, but because something in the moment is truly frustrating and difficult. If only they could have seen what my mother recognized.

Maybe we’d be invited to more parties.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.