by Tess Hodge
about the author:
Tess Hodge was the Paraeducator for Wyatt Rownd, a teen with Duchenne, in his 6th and 7th grades. A Paraeducator is an assistant at school who helps with physical challenges (like unpacking school bags, carrying things, etc.).
That day when I was told that I would be working with Wyatt I was like ok, awesome. I didn’t think any more about it. Until…I was told that he has Duchenne’s, then I was worried.
I had never worked with anyone with this type of disability before, so I asked many questions, did my research and tried to stay positive. After all my research, I was still worried that I would not be the best fit. So I asked, why, why me?
Well, I was told that I was great at what I do and because I have boys around the same age as him. Then it had me thinking that it wouldn’t be so bad.
I Would Be His Backbone
A few weeks later, I got to meet Wyatt and his parents for the first time before school started, which was exciting. After just a short visit I knew for sure that we would have a great relationship and that I would be his backbone.
I did my best to make sure that Wyatt was getting everything he could to be successful at school. If I couldn’t get something, then his mom could definitely get whatever he needed.
Wyatt taught me patience, empathy, the level of bonding that he needed and how to let go of the little things that we cannot control. In just a few months after school starting, I was able to be the person that Wyatt needed the most.
While building a relationship with a child that has a disability isn’t always the easiest thing, it can be done. With Wyatt, I was able to build that relationship with him and his family. Having a relationship with his parents played a big part of having that bond with Wyatt.
I was able to quickly learn the different signs of his frustration and get to him before the bomb went off. If I didn’t, then it was too late and it would take a lot longer for him to pull back. A few of his signs were tapping his pencil and blurting out.
Actually, he would blurt out a lot even when he was not frustrated – it could have been because someone said/did something he didn’t like, or he just have have wanted to give his opinion about something (even if it didn’t matter).
Once we got to know each other to where he could open up and tell me that he needed a break or that he needed something, things became much easier for the both of us. There were times that I had to ask him to leave the class because I could see the beginning of his frustration. Wyatt had some great teachers but many of his teachers could not understand him the way I did. They would say, “I don’t know how you do it?”
I would tell them patience. Every day we had our ups and downs, and some days were better than others. I had to train my mind that each class had a fresh start. Wyatt liked some classes more than others too, so that played a big part of the way he acted. I found that enrichment was the biggest challenge – like Art class was just about all fine motor skills. Tech class he liked…until he got frustrated with the computer.
So, I got with his mom, and we came up with a plan to just have some down time/catch up on schoolwork/homework for his enrichment. We both presented it to the administrator that was over Special Education, and we all agreed that it would be the best thing for Wyatt. After this was in place, the days went by much easier.
Wyatt loves football. At school, the ball was a problem for him…bulky and frequently on the ground. That didn’t stop him from playing though. When playing he would have friends around him waiting to pick the ball up to give to Wyatt so that he could make the touchdown. While Wyatt did his best, the rest of the kids would often run in slow motion to keep his pace. It was awesome to see Wyatt’s friends go out of their way to keep him involved.
In the classroom, it was the same as far as the kids wanting to help and having him join in on the group work. Sometimes he would just want to work alone. In that case, some teachers would try to push him into working with others and sometimes he would, but it really depended on his mood.