The wonders of Para’s

As I was digging through a closet last weekend, I happened upon a large stack of notebooks that literally took my breath away.  They were all from Tony’s elementary school years.  One of the best communication tools we used back then was notebook that would travel with Tony to and from school.  His para-professionals (or paras, as we lovingly call them) would write me detailed notes of Tony’s school day, since Tony could not communicate that with us.  Back and forth it would go, filled with the good, the not-so-good and even the very bad things that happened each day. 

To say that this was important to us, is an understatement.  This was the only way we could have an insight as to what was happening at school and how Tony was progressing.  It took patience and dedication from these awesome paras to take the time, during what I’m sure was a very hectic day, to write a note to us.   I looked forward to it every day — and I always wrote back.   (Now, in 2011, it’s an email or a text to his paras and teachers)

The nice thing about the notebooks is that I have a slice in time that I can look back on and remember.  I always say that I have a “gift” of being able to forget the stressful times and move on.  I’m sure I haven’t forgotten them, but I’m just able to put them aside and move on to our next adventure.  It’s the only way I can do it.  Somethings I don’t want to recall — but others I do.  It’s nice to see all the progress we’ve made over the years, still knowing there’s so far yet to go. 

Here’s the very first page of his 2nd grade notebook.  (Keep in mind, back 10-11 years ago, autism was not in the spotlight or as common as it is now, sadly)

“Tips for Tony:

1.  If watching a video, Tony likes to watch and listen to the VERY end.  He will get very upset if the video is stopped — or done so without warning.

2.  Tony loves the computer.  It is a good calming tool. 

3.  A good technique for Tony is:  “First _________, then _________”  i.e. “First math time, then recess!”

4.  Tony may need a few verbal cues before cooperating.  He can not “read” social cues, but will mimic someone who is upset or happy.

5.  Tony needs and seeks out big, strong hugs for approval and acceptance.  Also good for calming.

6.  If overstimulated or overwhelmed, Tony may lose his cool.  Be firn and stay calm.  He is learning to calm himself.  He will feel bad about it after, and may need some physical time – i.e. swinging, jumping, running

7.  Last year, they used PECS (picture exchange communication system) to help him learn his schedule.  If something will be changing, just give him verbal warnings — “Today is going to be different, Tony”  🙂

Another entry — 9.22.00

“Dear Becki and David,

     I want to tell you how wonderful Tony is!  Every day, we are seeing progress.  He is adapting to schedule changes throughout the day, answering questions with yes or no, sitting quietly in a large group, making eye contact when Mrs. J is speaking… the list goes on and on…  He makes us smile all the time!

    I want to commend Mrs. E. for caring for Tony so much! She is dong a wonderful job mainstreaming Tony into the regular ed. classroom.  She works very hard to make each day go smoothly!  Gracias, Mrs. E.!!  (this is the year Tony learned to speak Spanish – Mrs. E. was  bilingual)  You are appreciated!!

Mrs. S.”

I believe I cried when I read that.  We were struggling so hard in those early years just to get Tony to cooperate and just “be” in our world. 

My wish is to find all of Tony’s paras from all his years in school (including early intervention at age 2) — 1995 – 2011 — and express my thanks to each and every one of them.  We could not have made this journey without them!  We know just what a little stinker our Toneman can be and we know that your job was not easy.   Rewarding?  yes.   Easy?  not for a minute. 

As we come to the last few months of Tony’s high school days, I can’t help but wonder how lucky we were through the years to have such great paras.  If you are reading this, and you’re one of them… God bless you.  We thank you for your dedication to our Toneman. 


You can see by this picture, just what a little stinker he was (and is)! Tony - 10 yrs old - 2003


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you thank you thank you!!!! What a wonderful expression to those who care and give so much each day! I forwarded this e-mail to all the paraprofessioanl staff in our district as I wanted them to know how appreciated they were and the impact they have on families and learners in the jobs they do. I knwo the staff who hae worked with Tony over the years has appreciated and adored him and HIS FAMILY!!! He will also have a place in our hearts as he was a student who brought us much joy! Have a great rest of the week!

  2. I have to tell you what our magic phrase was for Jacob to be “ok” with something that was just a little out of the ordinary…

    “It’s the same, but different.”

    Worked every time…don’t know why, but it did. 🙂

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