The story of Little Bear
and a special teacheras told by his mother on May 30th, 2003
I have 6 children. I am proud of and blessed by each of them. This story is about my youngest child. He is a special joy. He understands the lessons I share with him. We are connected at the heart. I have always felt he was special. He has this way of showing respect in everything he does that is amazing. It's not just something "mommy" sees, strangers comment on how different he is; how intuitive.
When Geoffrey started school, a new deminsion was added to our lives. The environment hurt him. He told me it hurt him, and you could see it in his eyes. He begged me not to send him to this place. Kids treated him differently. Some were mean. Some made fun of him because he was a good boy. Some teased because he was sensitive to animals and insects and plants being hurt. He cried so easily when people bumped and pushed and said "share" when what they meant was "give it to me". All I could think of was "this is my precious baby and he needs help". I knew something had to be done. At home, he was loving and happy, but he was also sad.
At this same time Geoffrey started telling me an 'angel man' was visiting him. The school started reporting that he was talking to himself. I didn't know what to think. I asked the Elders for prayers. I knew the angel man called my son "Little Bear" like an endearment. I knew he had told Geoffrey not to be afraid and that he was "a keeper of the earth". I saw a child connected to the spirit world, but I couldn't tell the school these things. They would think we were both nuts. The school saw him lick the wall and told me how sorry they were for us. They saw a child with a mental illness. I didn't know what to do. His sacred space was being violated in the school environment. Teachers began testing him to see what was wrong. I showed him how to find his heartbeat and explained that it was where he could talk to Creator when he was overwhelmed. He could not stand the testing and forced eye contact. They'd say "show me..." and he'd say "no thank you" and slide under the table. He begged me to keep him home and told me that whoever had decided he had to go to school had made a terrible mistake.
School officials called an IEP meeting where we discussed what would be best for my little boy. Now his journey took a new turn. The school had a label for him. When the powers that be came to me, they said Autism---Asperger's Syndrome.
Never in my wildest imaginings had I considered THIS. It blew me away. I almost lost it. For a while I cried and saw limits. I told them they were wrong. They told me "here's the proof". What could I do? We finished out and began the new year with a few hours in a special class. They refused to send him into first grade, and I refused to let him be held back. We settled on Readiness. Still, the answer eluded all of us. The transitions were devastating him. Geoffrey couldn't handle change or crowds and his schedule was causing him more pain than it was helping. He wanted to be alone with his whole heart. Nine weeks into the new year, we had another IEP meeting. We upped his time in Special Ed. It was not the answer. In nine more weeks, we scheduled another meeting, By the end of the meeting, they got me to agree to a self contained classroom then informed me the school did not have the resources to help him.
I was stunned. To me he has always been perfect. He sings and listens to me. He knows he is Tsalagi, he
loves all the things I teach him about animals and nature. He knows that God is real. Here was my beautiful, gifted, happy child being pigeon-holed into a handicap. The school wanted to send him to another district. I was told there was a placement in a school 15 miles away. This Elementary had an autistic
classroom. It was very small, self contained, and very new. They thought there might be a chance that they could get Geoffrey into this school. It would mean
some sacrifice to get him there, but there was a chance. It might be possible.
So we waited to hear.
The teacher in the other school wanted to meet us before deciding. So we set a time. In late January of this year, we met a reserved lady who didn't stand out at all. She was nice enough. She talked to me for a couple of minutes, and basically said she thought it would work just fine. She had just moved here from Florida. Someone would let us know as soon as transportation was approved. And that was that. I signed the papers.
Geoffrey and I prayed for a miracle. He was concerned about our special time. Geoffrey and I shared the mornings. I told him we'd sing and talk in the car instead of on the front porch. My heart was holding it's breath.
It took 3 weeks to arrange transportation. I had to
have him to the school by 7:45 AM and it was a 30 minute drive. He would ride the bus home in the afternoon. Four other little boys, and my Geoffie made
up her group; all with varying degrees of autism. She had a parapro named Mrs. XXXXXXXX, and the children would call HER, Mrs. A.
While the old school brushed it's hands of a unique child, I told my son that God answers prayers. Friday before Geoffie was to start, Mrs. A sent me an email. "Tell me about your son", she said. "Tell me what he likes". Could first impressions get any better than this? After his first day she wrote me again and told me how sweet he was, how much she liked him. Geoffrey came home quiet, but he said he liked the new school. By the end of the week, it was like he had been there all along.
In the last 3 1/2 months, my son has not once fought me about school. He stopped hiding. He came home excited because she made little boxes for his letters to fit into. He can now write his name and do the grade level work the other kids are doing. It's not perfect, but it's worlds better. At the end of the year, he doesn't need the boxes. He volunters to read for the class. He reads out loud to me. He understands math and LOVES history and geography. SHE sends me emails telling me cute things he does or says during the day. She tells me his mind runs with the wind and brags on his vocabulary and his understanding. Geoffrey bought her a postcard with the Cherokee alphabet on it with his own money when we went on vacation in April. She put it up on the classroom wall. He took his painted turkey feather to school to show her. She showed everybody! When she sent his test home that the Autistic program required be done, on the front, for race, she circled Native American. Geoffrey is blonde haired and green eyed. I had once told her I'd prefer to be able to circle it, but wasn't sure I would be allowed. She didn't even ask, she just circled it. It gave me value too.
Two weeks ago Geoffrey performed in the first grade play . . . participating and memorizing not only his part, but EVERYONE's part. He ASKED to be a rat. As he stood to sing with the other children, tears streamed down my face. I never thought I'd ever see that because he is so very reserved where others are concerned. He sang loud enough we heard his voice half the room away!
Mrs. A high-fives him and is always positive. She tells him he can do anything. Now he can choose his food in the lunchline. He talks to the other kids. He carries the ice cream money to the office for his class by himself. He gets excited about activities after school. He insisted on going to the evening story time in his pajamas even though he forgot and it was over when he got there. Things other parents take for granted are not beyond Geoffrey's capability. He just needed THIS teacher. He has blossomed so much under her care. He is excited about next year already. He's seen the new, bigger classroom and he knows he will be with Mrs. A for the next 2 years. She sent her phone number home with him on the last day of school and made plans to come get him to play at the park during the summer. Every thing this woman does comes from the heart. As a parent, I know how very blessed we are to have found her. Her gentleness has let me look at Asperger's Syndrome and not see the limits. She has brought the joy of education into our lives and allowed me to go back to parenting my precious child.
In every sense of the word, Mrs. A is a TEACHER. Thank you Tammy, from the very depths of my heart. May God always send good things to you and those you love.
Update: It's summer now. Geoffie watched his first fireworks display this year. He still put his hands over his ears, but he laughed and enjoyed it. He can go up by himself and order a second apple juice and pay for it when we visit McDonald's. These are good strides for him.
With permission of the author, Starhawk Jordan, Senior Clan Mother for her people, I offer this poem to Mrs. Tammy A along with our most sincere gratitude.
The child speaks softly and not so well,
His eyes are looking down;
He digs his toe into the earth,
Awkward as he moves around.
A sudden sound brings his head erect,
Much like a startled deer;
It's then you see the pain and hurt,
And the overpowering fear.
This child is lost among the crowd
of laughing, playing boys,
They poke fun and make him fight
instead of sharing toys.
This child is hungry, not just for food,
but a loving, caring touch;
You won't see him cry his tears of pain,
Just an occasional bruise and such.
No one hears him as he speaks,
or talks to him a lot;
He talks to trees and whispering leaves,
and carries his favorite rock.
He's not too smart I hear them say,
but no one gives a hand;
Why should he struggle to succeed
when he grows to be a man?
This lonely, frightened, damaged child
seeks love just the same;
This little boy wants to belong,
and have a brand new name.
The tree did listen to his pleas,
and told the wind on high;
The wind carried it to Grandfather,
who heard this lonely cry.
Grandfather looked among his people,
for special ears to hear it;
He smiled and chose a special one,
they call her Spotted Spirit.
Her gentle heart so full of love,
had also felt his pain;
She knew at once this special child,
Wind Warrior was his name.
He carries now a handmade pouch,
with treasure he holds dear,
A purple stone, bits of fur, arrowheads,
and now some pride is here.
He walks a little taller,
And his steps now seem more sure;
With his pouch and his new name,
Life now he can endure.
He told the tree of his new friend,
And how much she meant to him,
The wind heard too and took it to,
Grandfather's ears again.
Grandfather was pleased,
His choice was right for all;
Grandfather gave this battered child
The courage to stand tall.
Wind Warrior and Spotted Spirit,
Their hearts are joined as one;
She's touched his life and made it good,
His face now sees the sun!
by Starhawk Jordan 6-23-02 © 2002
She is Bear Clan as we are Bear Clan.
Grandmother, I am honored.
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I had names in this story but thought better of it. It is the Internet after all.