I couldn’t be more proud of this kid!

David started 3rd grade this year, full-time and in person – after not having attended school full days since Kindergarten.

1st Grade, he went half day school and half day therapy.

2nd Grade he was virtual, due to the pandemic.

Between ABA and the whirlwind of the last year and a half, a lot has been thrown at this kid schedule-wise. He’s gone from school, to virtual therapy and virtual school, back to in-person for both, all while changing therapists and teachers as they navigate their own whirlwinds.

Everything around him has been constantly changing. Tonight, as we just got done saying goodbye to another of David’s angel therapists, we had to shift gears and sit down for David’s Parent/Teacher conferences. We met with his entire team.

Throughout all of the changes over the last two years, the only two people on his team that have stayed the same are his Speech and Occupational Therapists. He’s even had two teacher changes – since the beginning of the school year.

So by a lot of change, I mean, a lot of change.

We have felt like David has been handling all of this pretty well, but tonight we learned just how amazing David is. His teachers were talking about him with such enthusiasm, about how he’s naming continents, and countries on the map. His Specials teacher told us how impressed she was by some of things that he was able to show her that he knows, and we were enamored with how she explained she’s been learning his interests and using them to keep him engaged in learning. That was such an encouraging thing to hear.
But them telling us how well he’s doing academically wasn’t the best part. We’ve always known David is smart; you just have to know how to communicate with him to tap into that knowledge.

The best part of the night was hearing that through all of this change, one of the biggest things helping him succeed has been inclusion. David’s teachers, aide, and even classmates are just doing an amazing job making sure David is not only included, but happily and purposefully included.

From walking in lines, to carpet time, to following instructions; David has even begun to join in independently and pay attention to what his peers are doing. This is not something he would do even a few months ago. He wouldn’t care what others were doing; he’d parallel play at best, but never join in. His peers also make sure he is not left out, or left behind. They keep at his pace, no matter where they are going.

I fought back tears tonight during that conference, while David’s teacher (who has only been there for a whole week) was able to tell me about all of these things she has noticed; how David’s classmates treat and interact with him, and how much she’s picked up on what excites David and how he can be engaged in the classroom. I could tell she values having David in her classroom. He’s not a burden.

I cannot stress enough how much inclusion means – to not only the child needing extra support, even if they don’t have the words or expression to show it – but also that child’s parents, who are literally shedding tears of joy knowing their child is being included and supported.

Parents, talk to your kids about acceptance and inclusion. Teach them that including someone doesn’t always mean they’ll participate as expected, but to include them in any way they can.

It may not seem like that big of a deal, it may not feel like anything earth-shattering; but the simple action of including and accommodating someone with special needs can mean the world to a child, whether they can say it to you or not.

It certainly hits us right in the heart. 💙

HurricaneHeffners #Autism #Inclusion #Acceptance

📷: Meraki + Moss Photography

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