Our Journey Raising Two Children with Special Needs

This blog chronicles our life raising two children, Nicholas 14, diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome and Weston 17, diagnosed with Autism/Asperger's/ADHD. It's the ups, the downs, the joys, the sorrows and most importantly, the beauty of living a life less perfect, a life more meaningful.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mr. Walsh's Gift

This is the wonderful Mr. Walsh.

He is the gym teacher at the Penn Brook Elementary School. He is the teacher that ALL of the student's love.

The kids love him for many reasons:

First, he wears shorts all year long.

That's right, even on those frigid and frosty New England days, when temperatures fall well below zero, Mr. Walsh wears his shorts.

Second, Mr Walsh is "the man" with the bull horn.

He runs the daily "pick-up" line.

Using the bull horn, he loudly and charismatically announces to the throngs of waiting children, the "pick-up" number that is displayed in the windshield of the approaching parent's car.

"386......Weeeeeston Peeeeeeters!!!!! He announces using his booming voice.

But mostly, the kids love Mr. Walsh because they know he cares about them. Not just the well-behaved kids, he truly cares for them all.

But it is not only the children who love Mr. Walsh. It is also the parents. They love him for "seeing" their children and for embracing what is "good" in each and every one of them.

Perhaps it is not surprising then that Mr Walsh has been like a hero to me and my children.

I do not have the kind of children who pass quietly through the years at the school system unnoticed and overlooked. I do not have the kind of children that play without incident on the playground. My children exhibit the kind of behaviors listed in every ADHD and PWS book ever written. My children are well known by every therapist, every counselor, every principal and even the superintendent. Yes, everyone at school knows Weston and Nicholas. Everyone, including Mr. Walsh.

Nicholas has had a tough time this week, but Tuesday was the worst day Nicholas has ever had at school. His teacher, Mrs M was not able to distract him as usual. His temper escalated. The principal and other teachers were not able to calm him. He threw a chair. For the first time ever in his life, sweet laid-back Nicholas had turned into Horrible Hulk Hogan and hard core intervention was now necessary. They called in Mr. Walsh. After much coaxing and a few stern words, Nicholas finally settled down but not after telling Mr Walsh, he hated him!

When he got home Nicholas told me that he was very sorry for what he said to Mr Walsh. We were able to use it as a good teaching opportunity, but I felt bad. Mr Walsh has been very special to us.

Luckily, the next morning, I saw Mr Walsh in the hallway.

"Oh, man," he said, "he hates me."

"I am so sorry Mr Walsh, but  want you to know that Nicholas felt very bad about what he told you." I said sheepishly.

"Don't worry he said, we got him to snap out of it," Mr Walsh explained. "A very loud HEY, seemed to do the trick,"

"I am so sorry." I said.

"What?" he exclaimed, "You don't ever have to say that."

"Yes, I do." I said,

"No, you don't," he said, "I love him."

The words stop me short, as I realize that he truly does love my son. He loves him unconditionally. He loves him whether he throws a chair or throws a kiss, he sees my son for who he is and not for the behavioral symptoms of the illness he struggles to control. He understands the challenges associated with PWS and loves my son despite this horrible diagnosis. Love is a word that is not often mentioned in school and I realize that no matter how difficult our journey is fighting this disease....we have some very good company.

A tear rolls down my check.

"Lisa, you must remember he is a gift."

Once again, I stop short.

And although I know Mr Walsh is right about Nicholas....and his words help me to remember it,

I think it is Mr Walsh who is truly the gift.