Life happened fast and furious for a few months last year and we were forced into hibernation. But with the New Year, we are back! David Hampton is on our advisory board and has been there for us from the beginning of our journey. We present David’s journey with Becky – in his own words. This post is the first of a three part series. (Read Part 2 here and Part 3 here)
I am always asked why I became a special educator. I most often speak about how while I was a secondary Social Studies teacher, I was always fascinated by the students at the margins. Those that either would not or could not participate in my classroom. This is one of the major reasons why I decided to gravitate towards special education. But, there is one special reason for working with young adults with significant disabilities as they transition toward a world beyond school and her name is Rebecca.
Rebecca, more commonly known as Becky, is my niece and she is one of the most joyous and interesting people in my life. Where do I even begin to describe Becky?
She was identified with Developmental Disabilities at birth and literally cried for her first four years of life.
Becky’s prognosis was bleak as her parents were told that Becky may not walk, certainly would not speak, and would not benefit from typical education. Her parents were told that after her three-month stay in a neo-natal ICU that is might be best for Becky to be institutionalized. I remember my sister and her husband melting in dismay at such a thought, and they quickly decided that Becky would be raised in her home and she would have all the supports necessary within her family.
I felt terribly guilty as I lived in Chicago and was not close to their home in a very small, rural town in Missouri, USA. Her early life was difficult. Becky was extremely behind in her development, both cognitively and physically. Her early life was full of physician appointments, therapy, in-home physical and occupational therapy.
Becky finally began to walk at four years of age, and her language was improving to the point that Becky was enrolled into public school at the age of seven. Unfortunately, the school system where they lived was not able to provide the level of services that Becky needed and she was often asked to leave school due to her disruptive behaviors. At the time, Becky was only able to communicate her needs by hitting things, walls, desks, and people. Becky was home more than in school during the first five years of her education.
Of course, there was a huge emphasis on medication to control her tantrums, her anxiety, and her hyperactivity. The medication has serious effects on Becky’s personality by sedating her, they seemed to take away the essence of Becky.
I am going to stop here for now.
Next time, I will continue to talk about Becky, an amazing 24-year-old who has defied all expectations. Her story needs to be told. I’ll chat more soon.