Teacher Stories: Ann Gregory, Newmark School, Scotch Plains, High School Math
I work with autistic and special needs students. I love working with them, because their little achievements are so much better to me than a typical students’ achievement. It was ironic when our first son was 18 months old, he still wasn’t talking and I knew something was up. It eventually came to light that my son is on the spectrum. I was calling for early intervention when he was 18 months old. My mom said to me, he’s just a boy, let him be. Stop worrying about it, he’ll catch up. He had the tubes in his ears, so I thought that would solve it. The second we brought him home, and it didn’t work. I was on the phone. I often think, ‘Thank God, I didn’t listen to that old way of thinking.’ And you know, my dad always said to me, ‘Thank God, you were so involved.’
For a while I was in denial that my son was on the spectrum. Every child on the spectrum is different, as we all know, that’s why it’s a spectrum. So, my son had great eye contact and my son had great manners. It was the speech that was hard for him, and he was always of average intelligence. So as he got older, and then my younger kids began to kind of catch up and surpass him, is when I realized, he is definitely on the spectrum.
You know, as I tell the parents in my school, you have to form a bond with the other parents in the class because only you guys know what your challenges are. Only you guys know the struggles of being a parent of a child on the spectrum. I’m blessed that he was my first because I had so much time to dedicate to him. I mean, we did everything. We did listening therapy, he went to speech at Kean University, he went to private speech, and he went to OT. We did everything for him. But you know it’s a double edged sword because when I see his younger siblings surpass him, it’s hard.
But he is now 17, he is driving, he has a job at ShopRite. I don’t care about the grades. For me it’s about getting him to the finish line at school. That’s all that matters, and he is so close. I am so proud of all of the progress he has made. What I often say is that having him made me a better teacher. And being a teacher made me a better parent to him. The training I have received at the Newmark School has helped give me the patience needed for my son, and if I didn’t have my son, I wouldn’t be the person with the insights to my students lives that I have now. Every one of those kids that are in my classroom, I treat them just like I would my own son.
Interview by Gregory Andrus
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