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  • Heide D.

Family Voice is a Journey, Not a Destination

By Heidi D.

Each of us has a life story, but not everyone's story includes special education. That journey starts with me.

I started school in 1986. Kindergarten was not mandated back then. It was half-day and for families who could afford it. Without the foundations of Kindergarten, I was not ready and did two years of first grade, after which I was coded with a speech and language delay.

I began going to weekly speech therapy sessions, sometimes alone, other times with three peers. We wrote in a journal and practiced saying words. By fifth grade, I spent half my time in a regular classroom and the other half in the resource room. My parents never went to school meetings. I would bring home papers and my mom would just sign them.

Eventually, I was tested for a vocational program. The test recommended I enroll in foodservice, but I insisted on working with kids. I wanted to be a teacher. In ninth grade, I had to fight to get into regular classes, but used the learning lab for tutoring. Senior year, I upset my teachers when I took psychology, a lecture that did not fit my learning style, but I had a plan. My goal was to gain knowledge, because if I was to become a teacher, it would come up again.

Before I graduated, I took two college courses a in early childhood. I started my first job as a lead teacher shortly after graduation. There were three children in my class, one of which spoken only German, another had signs of autism, and the other had Down Syndrome. These challenges were new to me, so I researched how to help them be successful.

I continued as a lead teacher for four more years before completing my associate degree in early education with a GPA of 3.36. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. Then, in 2007, my life changed: my baby was born fifteen and half weeks early at one pound five ounces. I could not know I was headed down another special education path with him.

Childcare development classes did not prepare me for my next journey, but I researched again all I could about preemies. My child developed Cerebral Palsy sometime before six weeks old and had low muscle tone causing him to have trouble with eating, talking, and walking. But at 20 months, he did walk. At four, he talked and now he’s a 14-year-old in the eighth grade.

With the support of a teacher’s aide, he is in the regular class. He does the same curriculum as his peers.

My journey includes being a student, a parent, and an educator. I have learned a lot along the way. My co-workers and parents of students see me as a mentor because of my story.

Have a STORY of YOUR OWN? Send it to us at We’d love to hear how you used YOUR VOICE to meet your family’s needs.



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