Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Things Are Not Always As They Seem.

Psalm 143:8 (NLT)   Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.

Within a year of my son being diagnosed with Duchene muscular dystrophy we moved from Alaska to Washington. We settled into our new home and with the new school year quickly approaching I was full of anxiety.

We were still in a state of shock, over his diagnosis, trying to understanding what it all meant. We didn’t understand the full extent of his disability. At this point he didn’t look any different than any other boy his age, so how were others going to understand his limitations.

Summer was coming to an end.  I knew I needed to get him registered for the upcoming year. It took me a few times driving past the school before I finally got brave enough to stop and go inside. The school was old and in an older part of town. I felt uneasy as I walked up to the building. I gave myself a pep talk, telling myself it would be okay.

As I  walked in the secretary looked up at me and smiled.  I explained we were new to the area and asked about enrollment. She gave me the paper work and answered a few of my questions and then the principal walked into the room. I asked her if I could talk with her. I explained to her, the best I could about his diagnosis and shared some of my concerns.  She listened quietly then said she had the perfect teacher for Ryan, and asked if I could come back the following week to meet the teacher.

I felt a little better until I showed up the following week to meet the teacher.  As the principal and I entered the room the teacher had her back to us, yet right away I couldn’t help but notice how tiny she was. She was about 5 ft tall and weighed at the most 100 lbs. When she turned around she was not what I was expecting. She was a much older women that looked like she had lived a hard life.

Planting a smile on my face, I made polite conversation, but my mind was already made up. This was NOT the teacher for Ryan. As she talked I was already trying to figure out how I could tell the principal this was not going to work. Ryan would not feel comfortable with her. 

I didn’t  say anything that day, but instead went home, called my mom and cried. I told her about the teacher and all the reasons why this was not a good thing. My mom listened and then encouraged me to give the teacher a chance. Ryan had not even met her.  I resigned to give it a try only after I exhausted all other possibilities. Every other option I checked into the doors seemed to close, yet the door to this school remained wide open.  
To make a long story short, that teacher who I was so worried about became Ryan’s biggest advocate. Not only did she take care of him in 1st grade but her door was always open.

As Ryan’s physical abilities declined she helped me to fight for what Ryan needed all through elementary school.  Ryan is my youngest of four children, yet he was my first one with special needs. I had no idea what an IEP was, a 504 plan was, or anything else for that matter. She knew all the lingo and how to ask for the services he qualified for.  She not only advocated for Ryan , she taught he how to.  I was so thankful for this teacher. 

As it turned out she had battled kidney disease for years. In fact the year after Ryan was in her class she started dialysis. She understood hidden disability. She understood struggles and how to persevere in spite of circumstance.

She was THE PERFECT teacher for Ryan. God knew where Ryan needed to be for that first year of school. 

I am sad and embarrassed to admit how quickly I judged her, based on how she looked. Without even knowing her I had my mind made up.

It breaks my heart as I  now see people doing this to my son. They judge him with preconceived ideas because he is in a wheelchair.

Not only did I judge her, I judged the school based on the building and the neighborhood. Yet the staff at that school could not have been more kind and understanding, not only with Ryan but with me, an over anxious mom.  I am so thankful that God saw the bigger picture and didn’t allow me to get my way. He knew what was best!

That first day of grade school is a distant memory. This year Ryan will be a senior in high school.  While our school experiences have changed numerous times since first grade here are some things that I found to be helpful in easing into each new school year:  

1.  Talk with the teacher a few weeks before school starts.  Give basic information that will help them to understand your child’s needs. Keep it simple  adding more information as needed.

2.  Meet with ALL staff who might come in contact with your child at school.  We learned the hard way, after an aid made Ryan walk around the entire building because she thought he was messing around.  Be sure they all have an understanding of the disability.

3.  If possible, bring in an expert to talk with the staff. We brought an expert in from the Muscular Dystrophy Association to help us. We have found, teachers seem to listen more closely to another professional than a parent (sad but true). We also had the MDA staff member talk with my son's class early on in the year to help them to understand and answer questions they might have.

 4.  Be a welcomed presence in the school. Volunteered as much as you can. It helps to gain a positive relationship with the staff.  They become more willing to hear your concerns.

Dear Heaven Father,
The start of a new school year sometimes brings moments anxiety.  Help us to trust you to guide and direct us every step of the way. Even when things don't  look the way we think they should, thank you that we can trust you. You see the bigger picture and it is not always as we see it.  

In Jesus name,

Photo Credit- Donna Mckenzie


  1. Chuck H (sentry1939@gmail.com)September 1, 2015 at 12:02 PM

    Well written. Practical and Biblical. Easily applied.

    Proverbs 3:6 (NKJB). "In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths"

  2. There you go making me reach for the kleenex again. Im so blessed to call you my friend.

    1. Julee, you need to know that i understand COMPLETELY the anxiety you are feeling trying to make the best decision for your daughter. I hope that this gives you a little peace as God directs your path! Love you dear friend. You are not in this alone!

  3. Well written Donna and a real encourgement to others. God bless you, comfort you and give you the grace to continue on.

  4. Donna, even though I no longer teach, Ryan and your family still cross my mind and hold a spot in my heart. So wonderful to hear he is about to start his senior year! Much love and blessings! Heather Cottier

    1. Heather! So good to hear from you! You were such a wonderful support to both Ryan and I. When i think of his elementary days I can't help but think of you! thank you for your kindness and understanding. You have no idea how much it meant! Hope your doing well ! take care and God bless!