Professor Media Matters

I am a media professional with 6 years as a TV producer and reporter, and college professor in the field of Communications. I am also a Conservative with a passion for pop culture. This will be my attempt to put the "me" in media. It will be my take on movies, TV, books, magazines, newspapers, the Internet and all that is the worldwide media.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

This is a devotional from my book about my son, Parker's Story: Essays on Autism and Awesometism.

KEY VERSE:

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17

ESSAY:

            I was not popular in school. Student government, sports and other extra-curricular activities kept me busy and so I was well-known. But I was not popular in the sense of being among the cool crowd. My son, on the other hand, has the popular gene. People are just naturally drawn to him. For some it is his wild and naturally curly red hair. You would be shocked at how many women stop him in the grocery store to compliment Parker on his hair. Some have even wanted to touch it. The first few times it happened he acted all shy. Now that it has happened so many times he is used to it and he just ignores the women. For others, even those who see him at his worst -- full of tantrums and fits, they love him for his magnetic personality. So many of his teachers and therapists will secretly tell us that Parker is their favorite student. He is just one of those people who has the “it” factor and he has the swagger to go along with “it.” My son makes people laugh and smile and feel good about themselves. He is charming, charismatic and comical. He could run for President some day on his personality and popularity alone. His friendly demeanor is a God-given gift.

Preschool Pastor

            My son is part ham, part missionary. His teacher told me that for show and tell today at his public preschool he sang his class You Overcame by Jeremy Camp, which is his favorite church and Christian radio song. The song’s lyrics talk about how Jesus is worthy of honor and we should praise Him because He overcame death. The teacher and several of the kids didn't know the song before Parker sang it to them. Now they do and I bet he had them singing along. Another one of his teachers swears my son is going to become a pastor because he is always talking about church and God. Who knows, he may become the first autistic evangelist.

Classroom Crush

            Parker has a crush on a little girl at school. It is his first school crush, unless you count the crush he had on the drawings of Eve in his children’s Bible. He gets shy and embarrassed talking about his crush and won’t tell me too much. But from what I can gather, she is not in his kindergarten class. Her name is Sally. He did reveal to me she has brown hair and is pretty. I think she is older. She plays tetherball at recess. Bubba said he had a dream the other night where he rescued her. Oh my. He is starting young. He is only six.

Playground Poppa

            When I walk Parker to and from school every day I often get stared at by other children. On the playground they sometimes congregate around me. It is not because I look or smell funny, though I possibly do. I think it is because I am an oddity. Many of these kids, at a large metropolitan area public school, don't have a dad at home. They don't have a man who loves them, takes care of them and walks them to school. Maybe I represent a longing. The absence of fathers in the home is an American epidemic these days. The way I see it, me and Parker, we are blessed.

Adam and “Eveden”

            Because Parker does not have school for 11 days, thanks to holidays and furlough days from the school district, we have been doing lessons at home. I am readying my homeschooling skills I guess. We have been studying the story of Adam and Eve in Bubba's Bible. With his autism Parker struggles with reading comprehension. He reads quite well for his age but does not retain or understand what he has read. So his questions for today's reading were: 1) Who made Adam? 2) Who was Adam married to? And 3) What was the name of the Garden where they lived? He struggled with that one, wanting to call it “Eveden” not Eden. I think he was confused by two similar sounding words and was combining Eve with Eden. But he eventually got it. And then he got to color a picture of the Garden of Eden. We had fun and he is doing so well. His teacher said he is the smartest kid in his K-2 special education class and he is just a kindergartner.

The Encourager

            My Bubba is a friendly and encouraging boy. For many autistic children, making eye contact is difficult and social interaction is awkward. But with lots of therapy, intervention and a God-given personality, Parker has developed a very personable demeanor. He likes to play games at home where he does the play-by-play sports announcing and celebrates his friends winning the big NASCAR race, hitting a homerun or scoring a touchdown. Bubba is always imagining good things for his school buddies and I sometimes have to remind him that it is okay for Parker to win sometimes, too. Last night when I went in to check on him, my son the encourager was chatting in his sleep. He was talking to one of his classmates: "Good job Keon! Way to go. I knew you could do it."

Parker’s Progress

            Parker's Behavioral Therapist visited his classroom today to assess his progress. She gave us an amazing report. Remember this is a boy born with up to 50% of his brain missing, a brain cyst, developmental delay, autism and cerebral palsy. She said he struggles with writing due to his cerebral palsy. But his math and reading skills are above those of his classmates. She had to talk to his teacher about skipping several math lessons so Parker would stay challenged. So proud of my boy. So thankful to God for hope in what could have been a hopeless situation.

Classroom Crush Part Two

            So Sally was his kindergarten crush. By first grade he had moved on: Bubba now has a crush on an older woman at school. She is NINE! Courtney is a cute, red haired, freckle-faced girl. He talks about her constantly. And his teachers say he tries to talk to her all day long. Last night in his sleep he said, "Hi Courtney."

Sunday School Silliness

            My son is such a ham. Yesterday while subbing in his Sunday School class the other teacher had all of the 5-7 year olds circle up. They had to say their names, what age they would turn on their next birthday and what they wanted to be when they grew up. I was surprised at how well the kids cooperated. Some wanted to be zookeepers, chefs or mommies. But when it was Parker's turn he said, "Parker. 7. I want to be a booger." The other kids erupted in laughter. He caught us teachers by surprise and we laughed, too. Seems like the boy is just as silly as his daddy.

Classroom Code

            At age eight Parker is at that stage now where he gets embarrassed when I drop him off at school or church if I say, "I love you.” My wife tells me this is completely normal. So Parker and I have invented code words for "I love you." Now when I drop him off I give him a big hug and say, "You have awesome boogers." Other people who do not know the code look at us strangely. That’s okay, we know what it means.

Parker’s Playmate

            Parker is developing a nice friendship with the Ukrainian boy who lives two houses down. Avenir is two years older and goes to the same school as my son. He likes to play catch with Parker. Avenir’s English is strong and he is a good kid. He doesn't mind that Parker doesn't know how to relate to him. With his autism all Parker knows how to do is repeat his favorite Disney movie lines. Avenir just smiles and keeps playing. I am grateful that Parker has a boy in the neighborhood to play with.

Sadness as a Good Sign

            When I woke up this Saturday morning I found Parker crying on the couch in the living room. I asked him why he was crying and he said it was because yesterday was Jose’s last day at school. He explained that Jose is a friend in his fourth grade special education class. He said he found out that Jose was moving and would be going to a different school. Parker was going to miss his friend and was expressing real emotion about it. For autistic children, the ability to show empathy and emotion toward others can be rare. Even though my son was sad, I was so proud of him.

APPLICATION:

            For most of us who do not possess the “it” factor that draws people to us in droves, we have to work at making friends and being friendly. God thinks very highly of friendship. Just look at some of the friendships in the Bible: David and Jonathan in the Old Testament and Paul and Timothy in the New Testament. Our challenge is to value friendship as much as God does. How can you show God that you value friendship as much as He does? What qualities of friendliness and friendship do you possess? Which qualities of friendship do you need to work on? Test out your skills by making a decision to develop a new friendship and strengthen the ones you already have.



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