18 Sep Your Child Can Change the World
The following post is written in honor of Sophie and her beautiful family. I have her mom’s permission to share this story, photo, and name with you.
Yesterday I received some news. My very first student with autism passed away with complications caused by a seizure. My heart breaks for this family, for me, and for everyone whose life was touched by this sweet angel.
I wanted to share the story of how one sweet child can change the world.
When I decided to get my Master’s Degree in Special Education in 1999, I had no idea that I was going to fall in love with the world of autism.
My first teaching experience was in a special needs classroom in London, England in 2000. At the time, I knew nothing of autism except for the paragraph where it was referenced in my text book in graduate school. I had eight students with varying exceptionalities, including Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism.
I was instantly intrigued and challenged by a sweet girl named Sophie.
Sophie was severely affected by autism. She climbed onto window ledges, up bookshelves, and onto tables. I was told by my assistants that in previous years, this was normal behavior for sweet Sophie, as she always liked to climb to the highest point in the classroom and JUMP OFF.
Sophie was six-years-old and made absolutely no eye-contact. She had no verbal communication. She had to wear overalls because she liked to strip off her clothes, and overalls were the only article of clothing that she could not take off.
Sweet Sophie was charming, energetic, and was starting to become the most important teacher that I’ve ever had.
After weeks of trying to get Sophie to sit down, I decided that I was going to try something new. I took her into the gymnasium. A huge open space, just the two of us, I began to imitate her every move. She jumped, I jumped. She ran in circles, I ran in circles. She twirled, I twirled. I continued to imitate her movements for approximately 10 minutes, when something miraculous occurred.
Sophie moved her arms forward in a large circular motion and as I copied her, she moved her eyes to look at me in her peripheral view. SHE LOOKED AT ME! SHE KNEW I WAS COPYING HER! I then moved my arms in a backwards circular motion, and SHE COPIED ME!
Her lips curled up in the corner with a half-smile. Not only did she notice me, but she let me into her world. She changed me! She inspired me! It was in that very moment, that I knew something big was happening…not just for Sophie, but for me as well. I was inspired, excited, and ready to take on autism.
I went on to get my Autism Specialization Certification and have continued working with children with autism for nearly 20 years.
Sophie’s presence in this world inspired me to start Autism Consulting and Training, Inc., help thousands of families, educate teachers and other professionals, and spread autism awareness around the world.
I am forever dedicated to helping children and families affected by autism and it’s because of Sophie.
I am grateful to her for not just brightening the world for every person who knew her, but also for helping me find and fulfill my purpose.
Sophie, you will never be forgotten.
With love and light,