A Message Of Hope*
I can’t help it. I still want to scream when I see the beautiful little boy that is Drew Ingram struggle with that THING we call Autism, but I’m getting better. And I’m getting better because Drew is getting better, and that means that his parents, Zach and Leanne, are also getting better, much better.
This past week, I once again visited Twylah Beaty, a teacher who should cause Comanche ISD to bow its head in shame at the pitiful salary it pays this unbelievably dedicated woman, a teacher who has (according to Drew’s parents) done more than anyone else to crack the Autistic shell that surrounds their son. In fact, Zach and Leanne almost have me believing that Mrs. Beaty should be nominated for sainthood, if such a thing exists!
I don’t know how she does it, but even a quadruple type A personality such as mine finds an almost instant calm in the presence of Twylah Boatman Beaty, special education teacher and so much more to the children with special needs who attend Comanche Elementary School. It is obvious that with these children Twylah has found her calling, her passion, and the place where she is meant to be in life. AND…she truly has made unbelievable progress with Drew, whose story we have been documenting for a while here on Texans United.
Believe it or not, today we can actually report that Drew is beginning to talk, not much, and not everyone can understand him, but HE IS TALKING, and that is HUGE!!!
“The last time you were here, Drew had started in the See and Learn program. Believe it or not, he went through that ENTIRE program last year, and he lost nothing over the summer. I had absolutely no idea that he would be able to move that fast!” his excited teacher and biggest cheerleader told me.
“Remember, I told you that I just KNEW he could read, and he could! This has really been Drew’s year. He has made progress in every subject and even in his behavior. What happened was that at the first of the year, I decided to video Drew as he tried to read. That video caused a huge celebration among Drew’s entire family.”
It was at this point that I stopped Twylah to tell her about the evening Leanne came to me almost at a run to show me one of the most exciting things either of us had ever seen. Her son was indeed making sounds as he tried to read! Just typing the words gives me the same chills that I experienced that night on the football field where I saw Drew reading for the very first time.
“But I still wasn’t satisfied,” Twylah explained. “I knew he could do more so I started copying and making books of my own. However, the book that Drew is reading on the first video below is the very first book that I did not have to modify for him.”
Nor did Mrs. Beaty use the Velcro words on this book either.The sound isn’t the best on these videos, but I think that you will be able to tell that a once basically mute little boy is now speaking! Drew
And the very best thing of all is that Drew loves to read so much that his parents often find him under the covers, flashlight in hand, and a “Spider Book” open in front of him!
“Drew’s pronunciation not really good, but I think it can only get better because he speaking so much…not just reading. He doesn’t start conversations, but he will talk if you ask him questions. For instance, every day we work with our calendar words to decide what the day’s weather is. This was very difficult for Drew so I made a weather book with choices of pictures and words.
“For instance, ‘Today’s weather is ________.’ He has to pick the correct picture, the correct word that matches the picture, and then say the word and answer a question such as ‘Is it snowing today?’ Now he understands weather words.”
And folks, Twylah Boatman Beaty doesn’t just do this for Drew. She does it for nine children a day.
“What a lot of people do not understand is that I have nine lesson plans each day, plus we change stations every twenty minutes because that is about what their attention span can handle. Even in those twenty minute periods, we move and change to keep their attention.”
Of course, Twylah also teaches math, a math that she calls touch point math.
“Up until this year, Drew has run screaming if we even mention the word math. This summer I was trying to decide what I might could do to help him, and I decided to try touch point math. I use an app on the iPad called Doodle Buddy, and he likes it! It allows us to change colors so that the numbers are in one color, and the points are in another. This makes it easy for him to see what he is doing.
The final skill we looked at today is sentence building and yes, Mrs. B teaches that too! For the moment, Drew is using an iPad app to help him listen to a sentence and then arrange words provided for him into a sentence.
“My goal for next year is that he will begin to generate his own sentences instead of using mine. I don’t have a clue right now how we are going to accomplish this, but I am going to get us a plan between now and then,” the very determined teacher told me. Somehow, I have no doubt that she will do just that!
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Teachers like Mrs. Beaty quite literally bring a tear to my eye because I’ve been there. I know exactly how overworked and exhausted she is. I also know that she is touching and molding lives in a way that not many people in this old world would take the time to mold.
Here at United we send out a huge God Bless You to all of you overly dedicated, over-worked, and certainly under-paid teachers across the country, a country that would not have become a superpower without the likes of you, by the way!*It is our hope here at United that those of you who have been forced to walk with your child on this road we call Autism will find comfort in each other’s personal stories. If you would like to share your own personal story or if you would like to contact Drew’s parents email firstname.lastname@example.org.