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Saturday, October 1, 2016


A week ago I was asked to share some of our story, as a family, raising a daughter with Special Needs. It was very difficult to condense all I would want to share with this class of students at a local private college. The class was small and therefore a very intimate setting. I sat in front and just told highlights of life with our daughter, Teale, the good, the bad and the very ugly. There was much I missed and or skipped over, because, as it was, I went far over the time allotted. The "kids" got an earful that night and my hope is that they learned much about how families like mine really live. Our challenges are many and often, they are constant. 
I am sharing their reflections to help me to remember:

                We can't be ashamed to tell our stories,     they could be the key to someone else's success.

I've waited a few days to post on the blog because after class I was left speechless. I was blown away at Ellie's compassion, and her resilience to make sure Teale has everything she needs and is happy. When she spoke of her family and everything they have been through, it gives me so much hope. The strength this woman has, and her will to never give up is absolutely inspiring. I checked out her blog "We Are God's Entertainment" where I read some more stories about their family and I'm still struggling to explain how amazing and how genuine this family must be. 
   I have not personally seen a severe seizure take place, however my older brother has had his share of rages and outbursts, and I have felt the gaze of people looking at our family when we are in public, but as Ellie said quite well, it is almost always overshadowed with kindness and support. After hearing some statistics of parents with special needs, I'm so glad that there are families that do not follow them, never knowing this statistic I am also grateful that my own family is still together and happy, and now learning of more and more families that are the same, I'm not quite sure how to put it but it truly is incredible the bonds people can form and maintain despite the challenges having a special needs child may bring.
  I have so much respect for Ellie and her family, and hearing about their trouble with some school systems really encourages me to do everything I can to help students with particular needs, because each student deserves the best efforts from their teachers, and letting them down just doesn't seem like an option. 
Again, I am so grateful for have the chance to listen to Ellie, and even after trying to type this out and put my thoughts into words, there's still a part of me that feels like I can't quite capture it. 

Listening to Ellie Bradley share her experiences with us was certainly powerful and moving. Through the presentation I went through a whirlwind of emotions, and after class I really had to sit down and let my mind process everything. Something I found particularly powerful was that we were told the story starting before Teale was born and everything Ellie went through up to the present. A really emotional part for me was when Ellie was talking about having to train her kids go to a safe room if things ever got out of hand. It is no doubt that having a child who has special needs is a lot of work, but this example told by Ellie really illuminated just how crazy things were. And for her children to have to go through that as well must be extremely difficult. I checked out her blog, “We Are God’s Entertainment” and I really love reading her posts. By the time class ended I really just wanted to keep hearing about her experiences, and now I can read them! I find writing this blog really challenging, I just feel like my words are not evocative enough to do Ellie’s presentation/this topic justice, even so Ellie’s presentation was so moving and really eye opening for me about just how extreme the lives of the parents/caretakers of children with special needs can be.

Hearing what Ellie had to say was pretty earth-shattering and eye-opening. We all know that these issues go on in our world, whether it be learning disabilities, mental disabilities, and physical disabilities. But when we hear personal stories from someone who has been extremely affected by such things, it really grabs your attention. I think I cried once! It was when she was talking about her son, Beau, and how he stepped up to the plate to advocate for his sister, which ultimately changed things in their lives drastically. Her words really stuck with me, and made me feel for all the crazy things that she has had to endure in the past seventeen years. When she was talking, I made a lot of connections in my mind of her and Debra Chwast, Seth's mom. They are similar in the way they advocate and care so deeply for their child. Overall, I am very glad we got to hear from Ellie, and I wish we had more time to listen to her!

I am just loving this class! the speaker last night was amazing, I immediately wanted to be apart of their life (in a professional way). I have such a big passion for special education and the arts. I think that is why I felt so passionate about her story as well. What really stuck with me was how strong of a woman Ellie was and is. My day at BOCES (6hrs) is a very long and stressful day, so I can understand at least some of her exhaustion. She spoke about her daughter and her life with such power- I loved it. She did admit how hard time could be, but never gave up. Her and her family stuck together and did everything they could to help each other out- you really don't hear that too often. I was also blown away by the school district giving them such a hard time about their daughter leaving. Schools, teachers, and principles are in that profession for a reason.. to help students. It took her 16 year old brother to break down in front of adults for them to listen, I cannot believe that. I hope I am never apart of such a situation, as a teacher I would have fought with them and their daughter. Ellie and her family are truly special, I appreciate her coming in and tell us her story- I don't think she knows how touching and inspirational it was. I honestly think that she should write a book about her experience or even go around being a speaker, she could help many people and families! 

I found our speaker tonight to be incredibly moving and inspiring.  My mom has always worked with students with disabilities, from minor, to extremely severe.  So I have been around kids with intense needs before, but that hasn't necessarily made me comfortable with how to act in scary situations when medical needs arise.  I was helping out at a Christmas party once, at my mom's school, and a girl started having a seizure, and I was quite young, but I remember feeling very scared and helpless because I didn't know what to do, even though trained people were there to help.  I have often wondered since then what I would do if I was the parent of a child with these kinds of needs.  The panic I felt would never equal that if I was the mother, or sister, of someone going through that kind of trauma.  However, after hearing Ellie speak, I feel incredibly moved and inspired.  She exhibited such strength that I was in awe of her ability to care for herself and her family.  I was stunned that doctors pushed her to have an abortion, possibly because of my personal beliefs, and have so much respect for her holding her ground from that point, on to every time she had to advocate for herself, and her family.  She truly had to fight to provide the best possible resources for her daughter, which was heartbreaking but inspirational at once.
I also found hearing about her family life to be incredibly comforting.  It gave me a glimpse into what it's really like to have an intimate relationship with a person who has special needs.  I was so grateful to have heard her share what goes on behind closed doors, so candidly.  The team her and her husband make gave me so much hope, after hearing the statistics on how these situations can affect relationships.  It was such a testament to their love and resilience.  I also loved to hear what it was like for Teal's siblings.  The two perspectives were so raw and genuine, that I felt truly moved by each of them.  I am trying to imagine myself in their shoes, and have a deep respect for what they each must feel.  

Overall, I am so grateful to have heard her story both as a future educator, and as a human being.  I feel better equipped to deal with my own insecurities about interacting with people different than myself, and with my ability to provide for such students in my classroom.  I never want to be the teacher to let a student and her family down, as Ellie experienced.  I feel more determined and capable as a result of her talking with us, and am honored to have heard her.

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