I’m thankful for seizures...what are you thankful for?
July 17, 2012, is a day forever burned in my memory. It is the day that I witnessed my son have his first grand mal seizure. He was nine years old. It is also the day that began our family journey toward learning about epilepsy and the number of kids on the autism spectrum that struggle with this comorbid condition. Over the next several months we spent quite a bit of time at Cook Children’s undergoing testing in which my son was eventually diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, ADHD, and prosopagnosia; a fancy word that means he does not recognize individuals by their facial features. During one of our visits to Cook Children’s, we met another boy, who I’ll call JD, with a similar diagnosis that was just as outgoing and engaging as my son, a somewhat unusual trait in an autistic child. We made plans for a playdate at a local park and kept in touch over the next couple years. JD was struggling with the social pressures of public school, and after much thought and discussion, his parents decided to homeschool him. For the next few years, JD learned at home and participated in social skills sports groups.
January 2015 we first announced a new school that would be opening in the DFW area: Makarios Community School. This school would be unique in its capacity to grant students the freedom to learn and grow according to their interest and ability. When JD’s parents learned about the school, they were curious how it would meet the needs of their son. They scheduled a family interview and enrolled their now teenage son for the 2015/2016 school year.
I am so thankful for seizures. Because of our experience with seizures, I met an awesome young man that I have witnessed change and grow in amazing ways over the past two years. When JD first came to Makarios, he was initially withdrawn and suspect of everyone. He only wanted to participate in games or learning that he had experience with and was resistant to new ideas. Now he initiates different learning opportunities and will often join a new, to him, game when invited. As part of our democratic school environment, he has learned to advocate for himself in the Judicial Committee and has led School Meeting as chairperson. He has learned how to clean the entire school through the chore system and has earned money for doing extra chores. He has built on his strong math and language skills through impromptu lessons with our math teacher, playing chess, Catan and countless rounds of Scrabble.
This week JD has participated in preparing for our #givingtuesdayatMakariosSchool bake sale along with several students that have dedicated their fall break planning, shopping and baking homemade goodies. Next week they will host a bake sale, deliver treats and visit with seniors in our community.
Makarios Community School is far more than a school...it’s a community where students work together to make each other better, whether or not they come with a diagnosis. Enriched by their experience, students are raising money to make Makarios possible for even more kids, and taking their joy to seniors who are sometimes lonely during this time of year. We give tremendous thanks for our young people and the experiences that have brought each of them to Makarios Community School where they have freedom to learn, grow, and give back to the community!