These were the words of my son’s kindergarten teacher on our last field trip of the year. Earlier that week we had yet another IEP meeting, to hash out his vision goals, at my insistence. Partway through the meeting, it seemed appropriate to stop and acknowledge the final stretch of the school year, and my son’s progress at the end of kindergarten. Everybody is tired, my son is tired, I am tired, all of you are tired. Your hard work means so much, Jasper has made a lot of progress. My son is able to be in a general education classroom…he is reading above grade level, there are no academic concerns. He is learning social skills. He is making friends. Long before finishing, my voice broke. Taking a breath before continuing – He has made so much progress, but this is where he started, and I held up a photograph of Jasper as a newborn. There he lays in his isolette in the hospital neonatal intensive care unit, covered in wires that monitor his heartbeat, his breathing, his life. This image is different from most newborn photos you see. His head is tilted to the left, eyes staring upward in his seizure body language. When the photo was taken, I had not yet seen him and was still unconconscious following the emergency procedure that was his birth. After the familiar gasp and hush, somebody added, And Jasper does all of it with so much joy.
No matter how hard the school year has been, no matter how many IEP team meetings it took, the ups and downs, the challenges, conversations and endless advocating, advocating, advocating. No matter that I am that mom, the pushy mom, the we need to do it like this mom, or this needs more work. At the end of every school year, one of his teachers will say something similar. “I have learned so much about CVI.” “I will be ready when the next little Jasper comes along.” “Thank you for making me cry at an IEP meeting.”