Regardless of the circumstance children grow up in, all children need one or if they are lucky many mentors in their lives. Children who experience disabilities also have mentors known as Teacher Aids once they reach school age. The idea of teacher aids and mentors had me thinking .... "Are Teacher Aids and Mentors Carers in Disguise?"
I had a catch up the other day with an amazing woman who has helped make my children (in particular #1 son) into the young adults they are today. This lady has known #1 son for 17 years and his life may have been very different if it wasn’t for her caring and understanding.
Going to "Big School"
We met Mrs G the term before going to “Big School”. #1 son had had a huge year, if not life so far. By the age of five he had endured four spinal surgeries, two years of inpatients hospitalisations of 8 days per month and was in recovery after having an ilestomy operation. So, to get him back to normal life and back to pre-school, we had organised the stoma nurse to visit to explain and demonstrate what was required to care for a young ostomate.
Mrs G arrived early to the school to introduce herself to the preschool teachers, myself and #1 son. Mrs G explained that for #1 son to be comfortable with her assisting with his toileting, she felt they needed to know each other. And, that I too would be more comfortable with his progress into the school environment if we knew each other as well. All went well and apart form a few issues with staff at pre-school, training was accomplished.
The new school year arrived, and, with a nervous “big boy” and more nervous “mummy” we toddled off to big school. Mrs G was amazing in making #1 son feel right at home in his new surroundings. When it came time to say good bye for the day, she casually leaned over and suggested that they check out where all the action (toileting) would take place and while they were investigating the school also check out the tuckshop. #1 son looked up into her eyes, smiled held out his hand and said, “let’s go!” Neither of us will ever forget this moment of pure trust.
From that day forward, the bond of trust and loyalty that formed was and still is remarkable. In the years since the first day of school Mrs G has played teacher aid, confidant, parent, mentor and ultimately friend to #1 son. She has given tough love. Employed tactics of stealth I order to empower and been there for him when things just seem to be unfair for a small person.
Are Coaches, Carers in Disguise too?
We are lucky, Mrs G is not the only person in #1 son’s life who has masqueraded as a carer. #1son has been fortunate to also have a basketball coach who has seen the potential in him that he could not see himself. Coach has been the brunt of curses as well as fierce loyalty. Coach has had to make #1 son realise that self-recognition and caring makes you a stronger person and better team mate. “Nobody wants to smell you coming mate” I think are the words we used ?
Coach has brought #1 son and many others up through the ranks of junior basketball into senior representative level and on further to represent Australia. Without coach’s support both on and off the court #1 son would be a much different person from the young man he is today. Without the teacher aids and mentors who come into the lives of children with disabilities we would not be as blessed as we are to have them sharing their strengths with today’s society.
There is a saying that goes “It takes a village to raise a child”. I feel blessed that our village included these very wonderful people in it. Those we know as teacher aids and mentors really are carers in disguise!