To Our Paras, Thank You

For parents of children with additional needs, sending them off into a school building is hard, perhaps harder than sending a typical child–at least it was for me. I will never forget watching that little bus pull away, my daughter’s face pressed to the window and wondering “would she be okay?”.

For many of us, that worry continues day in and out, there is reason to worry too. Often our children cannot communicate in a way that is effective, to us, even to their teachers and once in while the fury boils within the community of moms with special needs when they learn of the way a child, like their own was treated.

Last week I learned of a child in a district in Ohio that had a paper stapled to their head. The manner in which the child was treated is in fact a gesture to intentionally embarrass this child, visibly, for what forgetting a water bottle? I was reeling with frustration and anger. First, would they want their child treated that way? Second, the district “reprimanded” the aide. In my opinion, its grounds for dismissal-at least.

Then I thought about our school. How would they have handled a child who didn’t have a water bottle day in and out? I am sure a note or two would have gone home. In a folder or backpack. Maybe the Case Manager would call and make a request but if there was no movement, I am certain I know what would happen. One would be bought, for the child. Without hesitation.

I am truly grateful to say that I can’t relate to the way this child was treated. Why? Our district chooses to hire the best paraprofessionals they can find.

Each Paraprofessional my daughter has encountered has walked into our school with the opportunity not to just change the day for her or other children they are working with but with the mentality that they have the capability to change their lives-forever. Its apparent they don’t see this as a job but as a commitment to make the world a little bit better because they have touched some of the most vulnerable of our community population. I am in awe of their efforts day in and out to support, love and nurture growth within each individual to achieve their greatest potential.

Often I see comments about Paras and I count myself lucky because I never have to worry. While they feel the exhaustion other teachers do at a pay much less, they continue to show up and work. Hard. Every. Single. Day.

So to my daughters Para, the Paras she’s had before and the Paras I know in our district, thank you. Thank you for choosing this, the path you are on here and now. I see you. I watch you and I know you are making a difference. Thank you for making it so I never have to worry that my child will be demeaned, embarrassed or treated as anything less the beautiful child she is.

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