For anyone who reads my blog pretty regularly, you already know I write a lot about Eric and how awesome he is. Well, today I am writing about Eric’s school, Pattison’s Academy – and how awesome it is!
Most of you know that Eric came to live with his Dad and I abruptly – and I had no previous experience with caring for a special needs child. As I wrote in my last blog, I welcomed Eric with all my heart – I knew I was all in, but that didn’t mean I knew exactly what I was getting into. I was apprehensive, and at times fearful, of what was ahead considering how little I knew about how to actually take care of Eric.
From the moment Jerry and I stepped into the doors of Pattison’s Academy (this picture was taken on our first visit), we instantly felt a sense of community and love.
Eric’s teacher Zach and his assistant Ryan welcomed us with open arms, and we felt a sense of relief immediately and knew we had a lot of support to help us through a tough transition. Zach told us about their big “spin” fundraiser that was taking place a week later – and we jumped right in and helped raise about $1,000 in about a week’s time. At the event, we met a lot of the staff – Eric literally stopped in his tracks to give a beautiful young woman a giant bear hug – which is how I met Coley, who has since become almost an extension of our family.
That first year, Zach, Ryan and Coley taught me how to push Eric to achieve his potential. We knew Eric was not steady on his feet and not physically strong, so we were very careful with him. We set up Eric’s bed without a box spring to make it easy for him to get in and out of bed. Well, imagine my surprise one day when I saw Ryan encourage Eric to lift himself onto a changing table that was more than twice as high as his bed – and he accomplished that with no problem at all! We ordered a box spring that day, and Eric has never had a problem getting in or out of his typical sized bed ever since. I used to carry Eric into the car – until I saw Ryan walk Eric to my car and tell him to climb in all by himself… Carrying Eric into the car ended IMMEDIATELY! From them, I learned the phrase “you do it” – which we use TO THIS DAY to encourage Eric to do more on his own.
Because of Pattison’s Academy, I have learned how to be the best mom I can be.
The Pattison’s staff knows how to safely push Eric to do more, to bring him out into the community more – and are kind, patient beyond measure, and nonjudgmental in their communication with me. I call his teacher Lisa and her assistant Tina my special needs “mom coaches” because of how they have helped me to learn and grow as a mother. This Christmas, I was so nervous to take Eric on my first plane ride together to LA – but I knew Eric could handle it – and I knew we could too. The support I received from the entire teaching, therapy and nursing staff was immeasurable. We have such a special relationship full of trust – it is truly priceless to me!
Pattison’s Academy has made such an impact to my life that I decided to join the board about a year ago. We have a vision for Pattison’s to become the model in our country for educating young students with severe and multiple disabilities in an integrated therapeutic environment. I know this model has worked for Eric and our family – and I want to help Pattison’s to impact more children that would benefit from its programs. As our fundraising chair, I spend most of my spare time helping to raise money for our mission. Once again, I have found myself “all-in” because in my heart I know I am doing the right thing by giving my time, treasure and talent to this organization.
Because the state funding in South Carolina is abysmal for students with multiple disabilities, Pattison’s relies on donations to help fund our programs – which include the charter school, therapy services, early intervention, and an AWESOME and unique summer camp. We also provide bus transportation for our students – which in a county that is over 1300 square miles – is no easy feat.
We would like to be able to grow to serve more children, and to add music & art therapy among other initiatives. All these things require generous donors and patrons to help us to achieve our potential…so that students like Eric can achieve theirs.
I ask you… if you have been moved by my stories about Eric, his accomplishments, and the impact he has had on our lives – please recognize that Pattison’s Academy has been an important factor these last few years.
Please consider supporting Eric and our fundraising team, and make a generous donation to this amazing organization! Our team goal is $4,000 – and we need your help to make it!