Material Witness, Handicapped
Photo courtesy of @iStockphoto.com/timsa
My newest release features the young boy AARON as a main character, the Material Witness to a murder. I’ve known many handicapped children through the years, and I’ve always been amazed by their courage.
Today I thought we’d hear some thoughts from one of my readers, Jen, who has worked with special needs Amish children.
Describe your experience for us. I had 16 years of experience with the public school system before I taught in the Amish school. I taught at Borkholder Amish School from August 2000 to May of 2004. I had worked with a young Amish student during summer school at Bremen Public Schools. This was right after the special education laws changed and mandated the students with severe/profound disabilities come back to their home schools as opposed to being housed all together. The student I worked with was profoundly disabled and needed total care. I fell in love with the little guy and visited his home during the summer. His father was on the school board at Borkholder. That’s how I established my first contact with the Amish community.
Where is Bremen? It’s in nothern Indiana in Marshall County. It borders Elkhart county. Amish were a daily sight in town. I had had some Amish students when I taught first grade at Bremen also.
How many students did you have? I had four students enrolled in my class. They were all in the Bremen Public School system and were counted by Bremen schools. Bremen provided bus transportation and I had the services of an OT, PT, and the special ed teacher. I had one girl and three boys. The girl was from a neighboring church district as was one of the boys. The other two boys were brothers. They ranged in age from 5 to 10. The youngest had just turned 5 the previous March.
What were some of their needs? The youngest stayed all day since bus transportation wasn’t provided for half a day. He was a sweetheart. He was total care; feeding him and changing him. He has Dandy/Walker syndrome which is a brain tumor. Sometimes I could tell he was in pain and I worked to keep him comfortable. He did walk and loved to eat. He also always took a nap in the morning. I actually brought a twin bed into the classroom. As he became more familiar with everything, he’d walk over to the bed and get on by himself. He really shocked me the day he took his blanket and covered himself up. He tested at only 9 months cognitively but sometimes I know he was higher than that. Because he was nonverbal he was hard to test.
Did you have students who had trouble adjusting to school? Another little boy was just 7 and this was his first year in school. He hated it at first. He cried and he wanted to go home. I thought about having him come only half days but I knew he needed to get used to being away from Mom. He had Klinefellter’s Syndrome which is a genetic condition in males only. He also took a nap right after noon recess. That’s when I read a story and he often fell asleep against me during the story. He learned a lot. He began talking more, learned to read a little and was able to add simple math problems. After months of work he learned to tie his shoes!! He was a beautiful child and very sweet. Boy, could he hit a softball too! He lived close enough to school that we all walked down to see his puppies.
What about older children? My oldest scholar was 10 when school started in 2000. He was usually in a wheelchair but he also could pull himself to standing on anything that didn’t more. He also was total care. He had a seizure disorder and he would sometimes have 2 or 3 in a day. He always fell asleep after them. He had CP and was developmentally disabled also. I fed him and he was much harder to feed than his brother was. He loved lying on the floor in the sunshine looking at his lunchbox or a toy. He really struggled staying well and was hospitalized several times during those four years.
He quickly went downhill. He is totally wheelchair bound now and tube fed. He could really get to case of the giggles; sometimes at the worse times too. He was getting fitted for a new wheelchair and really just wanted to hug and be hugged by the salesman. I knew there was more locked up in that brain but his health issues really affected his ability to learn. If someone was lucky enough he’d hug you anytime you were close enough to him to reach.
Any girls? There was a little girl I knew from public school. She had Down Syndrome. She talked, boy did she talk. She was independent. She kept me sane as I could carry on a conversation with her. She was on a low first grade level. She could read, add and subtract and was a great helper in the classroom.
I’ll post more of Jen’s interview next week.
Material Witness has begun shipping from the warehouse and the ebook will deliver in 10 days, on August 28th. I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into special needs children within the Amish community.
p.s. — Material Witness is now available for pre-order from CBD, B&N, and Amazon, in paperback and e-book. You may also purchase all 3 for a special discount price from CBD. I would LOVE for you to purchase a copy, then if/when you win a copy you can give one away to a friend!