This world is ours from the moment we are born. The world is full of hope, dreams, aspirations, and most of all, challenges. There will be many challenges ahead, and some will be difficult. Having said this, anybody born with a life-threatening condition can inflict severe consequences for the rest of their lives.
In 1989, I was being suffocated by meconium before my birth, limiting my airways and preventing adequate oxygen. While I was rescued by a C-section, the damage had already been done. As a result of my father’s concern for my future, a nurse informed him that I would never be a straight-A student and that I could expect, at best, a C average. Despite her offensive response, my father promised to do everything in his power to support and love me.
As a child, my parents began searching for a school that could understand my disability and ensure I would receive the best education possible. The hunt was on for a school that would support my education to its potential. They found it. A one-floor school with experienced staff who were eager to take care of all of my needs. The principal assured my parents that I would receive the best educational resources to support my academic success.
As I was cognitively able to be on the same academic level as my classmates when I entered kindergarten in 1993, it represented a learning curve for the school system. It was an educational experience for my teachers, parents, and myself throughout the first few years. In an educational setting, I had ample time to figure out what tools I needed to succeed. My elementary years were filled with meetings with the principal, teachers, Educational Assistants (EAs), resource teachers, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and hearing to ensure I had all the resources to succeed.
I encountered new challenges as the head of Special Education (Spec Ed) had difficulty believing that some of the work I was completing was mine. She couldn’t understand how I had worked without any support from computer software (e.g., voice recognition) during elementary school.
Working with the Technical Access team, we tried many different systems and finally settled on using a joystick, and a keyboard adapted to allow me to type using one finger. As a result, I could enter my data and keep up with my own pace and independence. One day I was given the chance to prove to her just how capable I was, and she said, “Kyle, you have proven me wrong; you are an intelligent young man. You have earned my respect.”
My journey started with a plethora of EA’s.
They are the foundations for the individualised educational structure for each child. Teachers need them as they can be the pillar of the classroom, supporting the delivery of education to all students with various needs. The role of an EA allows teachers to teach and to give equal attention and compassion to all students.
In an ironic twist, twenty-nine years later, I presented a PowerPoint presentation to 160 elementary EAs, some of whom were my former EAs. My interpretation of the value of their contributions to our education was heard by all of them. Our students’ lives are profoundly affected by them.