Gabe is a young boy with autism who attends one of May Institute’s special education schools, The Bay School in Santa Cruz, California. Jessie was his teacher when Gabe’s mother (also named Jesse) wrote this letter to us…
“When people ask me what Gabe’s program has meant for our family, I have very difficult time answering. This is not because it hasn’t been significant, but because it has changed everything.
My dilemma is, how do I explain to someone that before Jessie and the school, there was only pain and sadness, and now there is hope and joy? Do people want to hear how much we had struggled, that we had a child we could not take out in public and eventually who we could not even have around his own family? Do they want to hear that he hurt himself hundreds of times each day? Do they want to hear that I wasn’t sure how much longer I could do it?
A child’s life is supposed to get more and more full as they grow. They add new people to their social network, explore new places and situations, and their world expands to open up new possibilities. The opposite was happening for Gabe who is severely impaired by his disorder. His world was shrinking. Caving in on itself is a more accurate description. It was becoming smaller and smaller as his behaviors grew out of control. My biggest fear was that he could not be helped. His aggression was explosive.
How do you harness a rocket? Impossible, right?
Jessie did it. The change was subtle at first. It has taken years, but she was diligent. She taught him to nestle his fists into cozy pockets instead of hitting his head. She gave him the words “all done” when things were overwhelming. Recently, at seven years old, he learned the word “NO,” a powerful word in emotional development (anyone who has had a toddler knows this). I never knew a single word could have so much significance, but you can see on Gabe’s face when he says it, how it empowers him and eases his frustration.
Jessie knows where he started and she has allowed him to show us all how much he understands and what he is capable of. She creates goals that, I hate to admit — as his mother — I have doubted he could achieve, and he has met these goals and then some.
At last his world is beginning to open again and he is getting the opportunity to participate in a world many take for granted.
We live near the ocean. We can walk out the door of our tiny house and be at the ocean in less than five minutes. Gabe could not do this. He could not hold hands. He ran into the street. I was fearful for his safety. Jessie taught him to hold hands.
As I write it, it sounds ridiculously simple, but it took time and at first he did not enjoy it. It was a struggle. He bit whoever’s hand he was holding. He refused to walk. He cried and kicked.
Today, we walk every evening, even in the rain. When it is time to go he reaches for my hand as naturally as if he has been doing it his entire life. Often when his hand slips into mine, he looks into my face and smiles.
What has Jessie meant to our family? She has given us our boy back.”
— Jesse G., Gabe’s mother
Able to produce a big change or improvement