I am

I just had a mom email me and ask for help – a mom who is beyond frustrated and is looking for any means to help her autistic child find success in school.  We have all felt this way – with our own biological children or through our school kids.  In this case, she really helped bring to mind my personal passion for comics in education and how it has helped my own kids.  Below is my conversation with her so far……
Thank you for reaching out and for your kind words.  Your story is one I hear often, perhaps too often.  I have also struggled with my own children – my daughter is ODD and my son has a rare form of meningitis.  Comics have been the answer for a lot of their issues and why I have such a personal passion for sharing with other educators and parents.  I have also taught many students on the Autism spectrum and know that a good book – whether a comic or traditional – is often both a blessing and a curse when dealing with their focus.  My heart reaches out to you and I admire your dedication to your daughter.
    Of course, comics are not a panacea – but they are often a great add-in or even reward.  As for the technology piece – I completely understand.  My district has been a one to one laptop institution for a few years now – this has been wonderful, but as you well know, can also cause issues.
     I built an in-home library for my daughter, complete with a swing hanging from the ceiling so that she can go there and read a book to help ease herself when the ODD is especially bad.  She loves reading graphic novels and comics – I credit them for her extensive vocabulary and love of reading.  My daughter is in fifth grade, but is on a high school reading level and this feeds into her frustrations at time.  She feels frustrated with the world and why she is being treated as “just” a child.  We supplement her education at home as well – more for enrichment purposes.  I love her – but there are so many days when I just don’t know how I will survive the day.
     My son was termed a “reluctant reader” early on and had no confidence in his abilities – due in some part to the advanced levels of his older sister.  His teacher cracked down on him and was upset when he would wear superhero shirts to school and thought that his love of superheroes and Star Wars was distracting him from a proper education.  We backed the teacher and even went to the extreme of giving him a plain backpack, plain lunchbox, and plain clothes.  We initially followed the teacher’s directions and thought he was just being defiant.  I have so much regret over taking this route and punishing my son for something was simply was not his fault.  His meningitis plays havoc on his cognitive and physical abilities – he would shut down because of severe fatigue and chronic pain.  
     As a high school social studies teacher, I realize that we often just assume students know how to read at a certain level and often ignore teaching reading skills.  However, I knew that this was a not the case for many of my students and so went back to school to earn a MS degree as a reading specialist.  I brought these skills to bear with my son – I knew, in my heart, that it was just a matter of hooking him with the right reading material.  That being said, I began to indulge our shared loved of superheroes and Star Wars – I began to take him to the comic store and let him pick out books to read with me,  He was so excited and his reading level, and confidence, began to blossom.  Long story short – we pulled him out of that private school and placed him into an awesome public school.  He loves reading everything now – it was an “easy” progression to go from small comics and picture books to illustrated chapter books to full on chapter books.  
     Sorry to write so much – I just have never really shared this story with anyone and your email really touched me.
     So – back to you and your daughter.  
     It may sound simple, but I would suggest taking your daughter to a comic book store – find one in your area.  It is amazing how much these stores and titles have changed over the years.  Try http://www.comicshoplocator.com/ to find a store in your area.  Having her choose the books is a powerful tool – I use it as a reward every Wednesday (it is when new comics are released).  I am often asked for a good comic to begin with – there are simply too many genres from which to choose right now.  I have put some of my books and lesson plans on www.historycomics.net – if you are home-schooling, perhaps it will you give some ideas on where to begin.  My daughter LOVES Manga Classics – https://mangaclassics.com/  – perhaps this would be a good fit for your daughter as well.
    I hope this helps you a bit – hang in there!  Please stay in touch and let me know if there is anything else I can do.
    As teachers, we put aside our personal issues, anxieties, depression, and anger to be there for out students.  Being a teacher is not a job – it is a calling.  Spreading the cognitive and emotional possibilities of comics is, for me, extremely personal.  In the midst of my personal chaos, I have found the most important complement when my son has told me that he wants to be a student in my class.  I hope we all have an open mind and seek to reach students on a personal level.   I know that I have reached unreachable students.  I know that non-valued students find value and solace in my classroom.  I see the importance of recognize multiple levels of intelligence.  We all must see ourselves in our superheroes.  When a Black Spider-Man means more to an African-American student than a Black president….  I can only hope that other educators also give my own kids the same chance.
    I am not sure how this blog post will be responded to – my posts are usually positive and less emotional.  Perhaps I should write more of my own personal experiences.  I know that I have been able relate better to parents in IEP meetings and to connect with them on an emotional and personal level.
   Let me know what you think.