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Our Journey

Today is graduation day! Even though it won’t really happen until later this summer there are s

till lots of amazing things being planned by the seniors and senior parents to make it special. My heart hurts though because this is the day we have been waiting so long for; the one we have really fought so hard for. I use “we” because that is what it has been. God has been putting it on my heart for quite a while now to share this journey we have had. I kept telling Him “no, this is Devyn’s testimony to share. Her success and hard work” and the last two nights I have been woken up in the middle of the night to different memories and the clear notion that someone needs to hear our story for some encouragement. So here it is, well the long, condensed version.

Since we moved multiple times and have lived away from our family the entire time our kids have been alive, many do not realize how amazing it is that Devyn has become who she is. Devyn was born at 33 weeks, spent a week in the NICU and came home on a heart monitor. They told us she might have Down Syndrome, might have lung and heart issues, and would probably be delayed in reaching her milestones. Well they only got the last part right. She did take longer to sit up, crawl, and walk. Basically, everything but the talking. We still joke that Devyn was only ever in a hurry for her birth and those of you that know her well, understands this. Once she started pre-school she seemed on track. It wasn’t until kindergarten we started to see her really struggle, but she held her own thanks to her teacher, Mr. Davis. 1St grade was when it all fell apart. We were so blessed for Devyn to have Mrs. Brown because she literally saved us during a time that it seemed the worlds was crashing down. I was working on my master’s in special education and was seeing lots of warning signs in Devyn. We had talked to her pediatrician and they had diagnosed Devyn with ADD and prescribed her medication (didn’t help for her)

and occupational therapy (huge help). She couldn’t write very well, couldn’t read, and was struggling socially with her peers. I still remember the day sitting in the back of her class (she thought I was doing it as an observation for college) and seeing her tear apart a pencil eraser in her desk with no regard to what was being taught in class. After the lesson Mrs. Brown sent the kids to the playground and came over and gave me a big hug as the tear began to fall, reality setting in. All I remember her saying was “She is an amazing girl. We will figure this out.” Without her I don’t know what we would have done. Over the next few months she went out of her way to attend meetings with the local public school (Devyn was at St. John’s Lutheran School, The Best School In The Universe!) as they did testing for Devyn to determine if she had a learning disability. The testing came back from the public school that Devyn was “at the very bottom of average, but still in the average range”, that she needed to attend public school to get what she needed, and that we would be making a huge mistake holding her back. That was

when Mrs. Brown came up with a plan that ended up changing everything for Devyn. Devyn would repeat 1st grade and the other kids would be told that she did such a good job the first time that Mrs. Brown wanted her to stay another year to help the new kids. Whether the other kids saw through that or not I don’t know, but it made Devyn excited to go back to 1st grade again and that is when it all started coming together. She began to retain the information she was taught, started to learn some of the sight words, and fit in with her peers. It was such a relief that it was starting to come together for her, but also a long hard road we would have to go through. Moving to Germany brought us more amazing teachers that worked hard with Devyn and pushed her. We went through many nights of crying during homework that continued even into high school, but she pushed through. Devyn has to work harder than most of her classmates to understand and complete her assignments, spending late nights and weekends working on them, but she understands that is her normal and really tries her best. Her hard work has paid off with her having all A’s and high B’s since middle school even with taking Honors, AP, and college classes. NJROTC has played a huge part in her success in high school, giving her confidence to try new things. She tried out for cross country her senior year and loved it and will now run in college. She was still planning to go to a local community college until last year when out of nowhere she started becoming more independent and then found what seems to be her perfect fit for college at Otterbein majoring in equine pre-vet. She knows it will be hard and already said she knows she will need to get in a tutoring program. She knows she needs to push herself to focus and keep on a schedule for this all to work. She knows it will be hard with her being 12 1⁄2 hours away from us and not have us there to help as she is used to. But she also knows she has a huge support system of family, teachers, church family, and friends who are there to support and encourage her. I have always told her she can move mountains if she just believes in herself and God will place her where she needs to be.

Now that leads us to the part why I think God has wanted me to write this instead of Devyn. First, like she told me, she doesn’t remember all that she went through with school from when she was younger except that it was fun being Mrs. Brown’s” helper“ and that it was always so hard to do what everyone wanted her to do. Second, it was something God had to lead me through myself. At the time Devyn started school I was doing my master’s in special ed. I began to learn things I could use to help her, but she would often fight working with me, so I had to hire a tutor the summer she was held back to continue to try to help her to learn to read. I began to doubt my self as a new teacher and as a parent. It wasn’t until I started teaching pre-k ESE that I realized how much my own experience with Devyn had helped me be a better teacher, not only with the kids, but with the parents. I could see the parent’s perspective and how many were trying so hard and feeling like they were failing their child. I would explain how we made the really hard, but best decision for Devyn to hold her back and how it made all the difference in her case and that they needed to go with their gut feeling for their child and the situation they were going through. I tell them to have high expectations for their child and push them to be their best, understanding there will be good days and bad days and that their child’s success might

look a little different and sometimes very different than other children, but it doesn’t matter as long as they are doing their best and know they are loved. I also tell them that when things start going well and their child is making great progress it is normal to feel scared that something is going to happen and their child is going to fail, but they can never let their child know that they have doubts about them. Instead they need to continue to tell them repeatedly they can move mountains and do anything they want if they work hard. I tell them this because I still worry. I worry I will not be there each day to help her through obstacles she will face. I worry that even though for over 4 years she has fought hard and earned every A she has gotten in her Honors, AP, and college classes, that vet school is harder than anything she has done thus far. I worry about a lot of things, but then I am reminded by little things that God has her in his hand and can take better care of her than I can, and that she had learned how she can move mountains because that is what she has been told her entire life. My most recent reminder was when I saw the senior quote she picked for the yearbook, “She believed she could, so she did.” By R.S.Gray. That is God telling me He has got this, and she is destined to continue to do amazing things.

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