Friday, August 8, 2008

chance meeting of friends

I am on vacation in the Outer Banks of NC with my husband. Yesterday, while we were down on the beach I saw a little girl with Down Syndrome playing in the waves as they broke. I, of course really wanted to talk to her, but she was so happy in her own little world, jumping up and down in the water's spray and I couldn't think of a good reason to bug her momma, so I left them alone.

An hour or so later, I saw a young man with Down Syndrome, walking by himself, down the beach, his earphones in his ears, carrying his shoes, smiling. A few yards down, his mother was ambling along behind him. As a Mom myself, I'd say she was keeping an eye on him, while letting him have "his space". She too saw the little girl and immediately stopped to talk to her happily smiling and asking her where her Mommy was. The little girl's Mom saw her and immediately came down to meet her with a big hug!

These two women had never met each other before, but they knew each other. Later I heard the mother of the little girl say to her friends, "ever since she was born, I have met some of the wonderful people". When the young man came back our way, she stopped him and introduced herself.

I know eavesdropping isn't really very nice, but this is one time I am very glad I did it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Appreciating Parents

As a teacher for students with special needs, I have found that you get such an intimate relationship with your students, that you often think you know what's best for them. I often have to caution aides or other specialists working with my students that we don't know what it's like living with our students 24/7 in the context of living a "life".
I recently provided respite for one of my students for a long weekend and I looked forward to it for weeks. I truly enjoyed myself but at the end I was exhausted! Trying to keep my student occupied, happy and safe while still taking a shower and trying to keep a modicum of cleanliness in my house was an unrelenting task. I found that it was much more difficult to follow the strategies and methods of teaching that I was able to follow in the classroom. No wonder the parents were having a hard time following them!
In the end there needs to be an understanding from the professionals towards the parents which values the needs and values of their family. Teachers and schools can and will change, the family is the constant in the life of the child you are teaching. Parents need and deserve the support we can give them.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ending Seizures?

Many of my students have seizure disorders, sometimes the seizures are controlled, sometimes they are not. I have come to the not very scientific conclusion that those children who have their seizures controlled, develop quicker and further. And I do believe in the kindling theory of seizures and that seizures themselves cause damage, especially to the quickly developing brain of a child.
One of my students is going to be enrolled in a study using the "Low Glycemic Index Treatment" for his seizures. The hope is that by using this diet, his seizures will either be totally controlled or can be controlled by less medication. Right now he has tried most medications and various combinations and they are either ineffective or have undesireable side effects. The LGIT needs to be administered and overseen by both a neurologist and a dietician, but the hope is that it will be less restrictive than the ketogenic diet would be and just as effective.
Here's hoping and praying.

Friday, July 25, 2008


I woke up today with a migraine, not just any old migraine, but a number 9 on the old pain scale. I felt like my head was going to explode! I am beginning to wonder how high my blood pressure is when I am in this kind of pain.
Unfortunately, I have migraines pretty often, sometimes as many as 5 or 6 a week. It makes me think though about children/adults who have no way of telling us how much pain they are in and if I think I am undermedicated for the pain at times, what about those of us who are unable to explain their pain to others.
Yesterday, at one of my favorite healthboards, Braintalk, someone posted an article entitled "The Crisis in Pain Control who are Complex, Nonverbal or Cognitively Impaired " The author explains reasons why pain is often untreated in these children and what a parent can do to make sure this does not happen. What a scarey proposition, to be in pain, to have something wrong and to get no relief because medical professionals don't think your cries are related to pain! I think this is an important article for parents and all professionals who work with non verbal children or adults.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Teaching Angels

The title of my blog "Teaching Angels" is kind of a double entendre. I teach children with multiple special needs, they are angels, although they don't always act like it :) I also teach and have taught children with a genetic syndrome called Angelman Syndrome. In some circles they are labeled "angels" as well. I love all of my students but I have definitely found I have an affinity and special liking for children with Angelman Syndrome.
I am hoping by writing this blog I can offer my experiences and some of the hard lessons I have learned in the 16 years I have been teaching special education. I definitely don't know all the answers, every child and every situation is different, but I might have some ideas on how to help.
Right now I am on summer vacation!!! Although I still have contact with my students from time to time, I am mostly enjoying a little more than 2 months of no teaching. I will be going to a conference in VA Beach in a couple of weeks on teaching children with multiple disabilities, but we ( my wonderful husband and I ) managed to insert it into a two week trip to the Outer Banks, however we will have computers with us and the beach house has WiFi, so I will continue to post.

Goodbye for now!