This piece originally appeared in the Spring 2014 Inclusive, a newsletter published biannually by the CLC Network Advancement Department.
When teachers and a student have a day this good, it’s worth sharing. “We called it a Fabulous Friday, because it went so incredibly well,” shares Andrea Tejchma, Chilton’s first grade teacher, and Jessica Tysman, classroom aide at Grand Haven Christian School in Grand Haven, Michigan. “There were schedule changes and other challenges, but Chilton went with it and then blew us away with his progress.”
Chilton Giaimo is a first grade student, and the prior few weeks had been a little up and down. He has Autism Spectrum Disorder, which makes it difficult for him to demonstrate verbal and social skills at the same rate as his peers. He had been uncomfortable interacting with other children and typically preferred to spend recess by himself.
“He was very proud of his wacky hair for the school-wide Wacky Hair Day, and ate lunch with the other students in the gym,” his teachers share. “At indoor recess that Friday, one of Chilton’s friends had to go and finish work with a teacher. Chilton waited patiently, and then used words to ask this friend to play. They were running around and giggling the rest of the time.” This was the first time his teachers had seen him initiating play with other kids, plus he demonstrated his verbal skills!
Later that day, Chilton got every word right on his spelling test, using an iPad. His teachers explain, “He had struggled with pencil and paper, so we learned that he knew the words and it was much easier for him to type.” As his mother, Ginger, shares,
“It’s important to never underestimate how special kids are, no matter
what they may be struggling with.”
During the next break time, Chilton would usually go to one page in a particular book that he liked to review. Over the course of a few weeks, his teachers were putting sticky notes on other pages, then rewarding Chilton with a treat when he read them. On this Fabulous Friday, Chilton read through three whole books!
At the end of the day, Chilton volunteered to close the class with prayer. “We can usually understand the first few words when he prays, but then it can become mumbling,” explains his teachers. “Afterwards, one of his classmates told us, ‘It’s okay that we don’t know what Chilton is praying, because God knows.’”
“’Jesus Loves Me’ were some of his first words, and he sang the entire song through,” remembers his mother, Ginger. “It’s wonderful to have a Christian community to encourage him to grow and develop. All of his progress has come from pushing him to go beyond what we might think he’s capable of, and every time he steps up and meets the challenge.”
To read more stories of inclusion in church and school communities, check out the latest Inclusive newsletter on the CLC Network website.
Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the advancement director at CLC Network.