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When I was a college student, I interned in a small classroom with young children at the United Cerebral Palsy Association. These children were immobile and nonverbal, but were able to understand and interact in their own way. They had almost one staff member per child. Most children required individual assistance ... except one. For privacy purposes, let's call him "Georgie." Georgie had mainly Spastic CP with Hypertonia that affected all four of his limbs, along with his speech and feeding. The main goal each week for Georgie was to loosen the muscle tone in his limbs using PT and OT.

Since the other children required more attention from the senior trained staff, I worked with Georgie. I just loved him. When Georgie smiled at you, you couldn't help but smile back. He didn't speak, but he communicated in his own way ... by looking at something he wanted with his eyes and acknowledging that you got it right with a smile. After crafts or story time with me, he would be placed in a standing position with an assistive device as part of his physical therapy and he was happy to have a full view of the class. He was a happy little boy and very rarely complained. 

Part of my internship was to create lessons and activities for the entire class. One day, I was working with another child. Georgie had been placed in his standing position as part of his PT, and was facing me. He made a noise and I looked up. I was rewarded with a big smile. I went back to my activity. This happened a second time. The third time, when I looked up, I was rewarded with a smile and a giggle. I also noticed that the other teachers were looking at Georgie too. One of the teachers said to me "He's saying your name." Georgie was non-verbal. Georgie was non-verbal, but he was saying my name. More than that, he was proud of himself.

So you see, I understand how the smallest acts can deliver the greatest rewards. I understand that a disability just means you work with that child differently because he or she has unique needs. Those unique needs require a carefully crafted IEP with tailored services or modifications and appropriate measurable goals. When the "Team" works together toward a child's goals, the child make progress.   

I thank the teachers at the UCPA for showing me what a difference a supportive Team can make. I thank "Georgie" for all his smiles, for his giggles, and for the unforgettable experience.

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