Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Spectrum on the Other Side of the Rainbow

  All my life, I wanted to be a nurse.  In high school I took courses that I would need to become an RN. Then, in my senior year of high school I was chosen to work one night a week with a four year old, nonverbal, autistic boy. I was trained for this task by his special education teacher. She had me read the book Son-Rise by Barry Neil Kaufman. (Kaufman, 1978) Son-Rise,  is a true story about how Barry Neil Kaufman and his wife helped their son Raun come into their world. It is a wonderful story that is  as much about a parents love as it is about autism. 
     I will never forget my first encounter with Jon, my very first special education student.  As soon as I saw him, I was instantly drawn into his world. He was swinging on a swing that his parents had set up in the doorway in his kitchen.  The gaze in his big, brown eyes, was far off in the distance. He cupped his little hand near his mouth and made howling-whistling like noises as he swung  back and forth. He took my hand and went with me to his room but never made eye-contact. Each Friday night for a year as we did all of the activities specifically designed for Jon.  He was there and I was there but in reality we were never really together. He was in his world and I was in his space. I admire Jon for so adeptly doing the activities while at the same time never straying from his path of solitude. Jon was quite content to simply be who he was. He did more for me than I ever did for him. He taught me who I was. He taught me that all children are to be valued and need some one who is willing to find the key to unlock their true potential. I wanted to be this person for children.
    I did not become a nurse. I became a special education teacher and this is the only thing that I ever want to be. In 35 years and hundreds of children later my passion for my field has never waned.  My passion has only grown stronger and my knowledge deeper. I love the children that I serve and I love helping them and their families make their lives better. So, thank you to the Kaufmans, and to Jon for bringing me to the spectrum on the other side of the rainbow. I'm am forever grateful. 

 Raun graduated from an Brown University and went on to become the director of global education at the Autism treatment Center of America founded by his parents. 


  1. This is a beautiful story. I'm glad that you encountered Jon, and that he led you down the path of special ed. Special ed students really are very special to work with :)

  2. I am forever grateful that I was fortunate enough to have been recommended by my high school health teacher to work with Jon. Meeting Jon changed the course of my life forever. Teachers really do change lives for the better.