Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

Our Land – Part of your class

Those of you who have been here for a while know that on Wednesdays, I feature different voices, chosen specifically to make all of us think, wonder, and appreciate differing viewpoints and abilities. As a mother to a perfectly perfect boy with probably-autism, I’ve changed my mission in life from whatever it used to be to finding support, humor, resources, and empathy for everybody.  The Our Land Series began here and has continued each week because you people rock.

This week, I’m proud to say that my bloggie love Kerry, who will certainly be famous one day for her attitude, her brilliance, her compassion and her writing, has, once again, kindly given her moving words to The Our Land Series.  Nobody believes me when I tell them that this amazing young woman is a 19-year old. She’s insightful and kind. She’s wonderful.  She also brings Our Land a perspective that is uniquely hers.


Part of Your Class

The first thing I noticed about eight-year-old Jack was his eyes. They were sad, pleading, misunderstood. He rocked in his chair and covered his ears in an attempt to escape from this world, if only for a little while. Those around him assumed that he didn’t understand. I wish I could have shown them that it was the other way around; Jack was aware of more than they realized. They were the ones who did not understand.


I sat with a stack of spelling tests in front of me, and I began correcting them one by one. When I got to Jack’s test, the teacher said absentmindedly, “Oh, don’t worry about that one. He’s not in our class.” He’s not in our class. At first I was puzzled by this statement. He had his own desk, labeled with his name in tall, black letters. But I quickly realized that she was right; that was as far as the inclusion extended. Beyond that, he was a boy with autism, a disabled boy, a boy incapable of learning alongside his peers. I tilted his test toward the teacher. Most of the page was blank, with the exception of numbers five and six. His letters were sprawled across the paper, messy and wide, but these two words were spelled correctly. “Look at this,” I murmured, and an expression of surprise crossed her face. Those two words spoke to me; they screamed across the page, rebelled against the teachers who overlooked his intelligence and wrote him off as “that autistic kid.” My heart ached for this boy. I wanted so desperately to help him somehow, to show others the brightness in his mind, to see a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. One day, I walked into the classroom and found him standing in the corner, his face pressed against the wall in an attempt to block out the world that crushed his spirit and branded him as a hopeless case.


A few weeks later, Jack and I were in the hallway together. I was leading him back to the classroom when he stopped, rooted to the spot, and his eyes found my legs. He spoke in quiet, disjointed sentences, but I understood. He was concerned about the way I walked and was afraid that I was hurt. “It’s okay, Jack,” I said, “My legs were hurt when I was a baby, but I’m okay, I promise.” I took his hand in mine, and we continued down the hallway. There we were, the boy with autism and the girl with cerebral palsy, struggling to forge our way in a world that didn’t understand us. As I held his hand, I wished I could meet his wounded gaze and tell him, When I look at you, I see a child whose spirit is shattered and whose abilities are underestimated, whose eyes are clouded with hurt. I wish I could do more for you now, but I just want to you to know that I am working for your future, working to construct a world of empathy and wonder, a world where people will see you, the real you: not a boy disabled by autism, but a boy with limitless potential, a spark of curiosity, quiet intelligence. In this world, you will be understood and appreciated.

In this world, you will always be a part of your class.

Kerry is a nineteen-year-old college freshman with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. She’s the only girl in a set of triplets, and is living away from home for the first time. She hopes to make a difference in the world by spreading compassion and understanding. She rocks. Check out her incredible words over at Transcending CP.  You won’t be disappointed.

  • Emily - Kerry, Your posts inspire me in so many ways…I needed to read something like this today. Thank you for writing it and for helping to spread the empathy and compassion that this world needs.July 10, 2013 – 9:10 amReplyCancel

  • Janine Huldie - Truly love the way Kerry looks at this world and this little boy named Jack. As a teacher, I never understood how other teachers could write off kids with autism and other types of learning disabilities. I actually was commissioned one year to teach an 8th grade class of boys who had very severe learning disabilities according to the school district. They could barely add let alone multiply. It was my job to find activities to pretty much just keep them busy. That bothered me to no end and I fought tooth and nail to teach these boys basic arithmetic and even the multiplication tables using every damned trick in the book I could come up with and still try my hardest to make it fun for them. In the end, I like to think I did make a difference and isn’t that what teaching is all about!!July 10, 2013 – 9:19 amReplyCancel

  • Kerri - I want to be Kerry when I grow up. I want her vision when she looks at the world and sees it’s beauty. Her writing should be required reading in every classroom and then sent home to parents.

    I hope she teaches in Boo’s school system someday. Someday really soon.July 10, 2013 – 10:23 amReplyCancel

  • Jessica - I always love Kerry’s posts; so eye-opening and inspiring. I wish we could all do something to help kids like Jack. Everyone just wants to be understood and accepted. Thanks, Kerry, and great work.July 10, 2013 – 10:35 amReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Kerri your stories are SO beautiful. I wish every child’s classroom could have one of you. Thank you for sharing Kristi.July 10, 2013 – 10:43 amReplyCancel

  • Jen - Kerry you are so amazing. I am sobbing over here. If only there were so many more of you. I hope your Empathy is as contagious in the real world as it is here.July 10, 2013 – 11:57 amReplyCancel

  • Anita @ Losing Austin - Kerry, you do rock. Wow. Can’t wait to read where life takes you- I believe it will be high.July 10, 2013 – 12:48 pmReplyCancel

  • that cynking feeling - Kerry, I certainly wish every teacher had your attitude. In fact, I wish I could say that I had your attitude when I was a teacher, but I’m not sure I can honestly say I was as accepting at your age.July 10, 2013 – 2:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Muses from the deep - Love the way Kerry expresses herself. Poignant, heartfelt, and sadly, very true.July 10, 2013 – 2:53 pmReplyCancel

  • [email protected] on Deranged - Gah! You made me cry. But in a good way. I always keep hoping for that awesome Hollywood ending where the good guy swoops in and takes Jack to a special place where he is understood and can run and romp and sing and talk and draw and everything he longs to do. How far we’ve come and how far we have to go.July 10, 2013 – 3:11 pmReplyCancel

  • Lizzi Rogers - Another gorgeous one from Kerry – what an amazing writer. Just gets you right in the heartstrings. Well done for a champion piece, Kerry – and well done for being an amazing Our Land ambassador.July 10, 2013 – 3:23 pmReplyCancel

  • Dana - I’ve loved reading each piece you’ve written for this series, Kerry. Once again you share with us the pain of being different and misunderstood, and the belief that empathy and kindness can make a difference.July 10, 2013 – 4:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Sylvia - A beautiful, tear jerking post!July 10, 2013 – 6:09 pmReplyCancel

  • Stephanie @ Mommy, for real. - Kerry, you have a gift. Combining your insight, empathy, and incredible voice as a writer is a magical thing. Beautiful post.July 10, 2013 – 6:57 pmReplyCancel

  • Tatum - Whew, that’s a whole lotta different feelings you just conjured up from this reader, Kerry. First, I hope you already know, I’m completely jealous of your writing capabilities and I think you are one of the most insightful person I’ve ever “met”. I hope more and more of the world is meeting you as you continue to write.

    I also want to punch that teacher. I know I’m judging w/out knowing her side…but, I do. I want to punch her. I want Jack to have more Kerry’s in his life…he deserves that. We all deserve that…to know Jack better as a person and to give him the opportunity to be his best person.

    And then, I feel pride for Jack. Too many say that children with Autism don’t feel empathy. In your story, you shared a perfect example of true empathy and compassion.July 11, 2013 – 12:16 amReplyCancel

  • Rachel Demas - Kerry, you have loving eyes. I have no doubt that Jack will remember them. I will remember your words, and strive to see the world the way you do from now on.July 11, 2013 – 1:08 amReplyCancel

  • Out One Ear - Awesome. This is spectacular.July 11, 2013 – 5:04 amReplyCancel

  • Kristi Campbell - Emily,
    I think we all need to read this each week. Empathy and compassion for everybody!

    I’ll bet that you made an awesome difference. Yes, that IS what teaching is all about. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective!

    I want to be Kerry when I grow up, too. And if she becomes Boo’s teacher, we’re moving so Tucker can be in that class, too.
    July 11, 2013 – 8:58 amReplyCancel

  • Kristi Campbell - Jessica,
    I agree completely! I wish more people would try to help or at least spread awareness.

    Me, too, friend. Me, too.

    I hope her empathy is contagious as well. I’d love to know her in real life (and you, too! – all of my bloggie loves!)
    July 11, 2013 – 9:00 amReplyCancel

  • Kristi Campbell - Anita, Cynking, Melissa, Dana and Syliva,
    YES YES YES. I want the Hollywood ending for Jack, too. In fact, I want it for all of our kids – those with special needs and those without. Every child and every person should feel accepted and understood. Be treated with kindness. With posts like Kerry’s, I think we’re getting closer. I hope.July 11, 2013 – 9:02 amReplyCancel

  • Kristi Campbell - Stephanie,
    I so agree!

    I want to punch the teacher, too. It makes me so mad to know that there are teachers out there who totally dismiss some of our kids. It’s sickening and sad and needs to be changed. The world needs more Kerry’s and Tatum’s and everybody who believes that each person deserves understanding and compassion.
    And yes – children with autism DO feel empathy. It’s stupid for people to say that they don’t. Perhaps they don’t always express it in a way that typical people do, but they feel it. <3 all you guys.
    ---July 11, 2013 – 9:04 amReplyCancel

  • GirlieOnTheEdge - Kristi, this is a great feature, this Our Land series. Don’t stop!

    Kerry, I don’t know what impressed me more – the maturity of your writing or your maturity! Damn…What am I trying to say here…
    You write beautifully. It is quite apparent your heart is huge. I haven’t been to your website yet so I am assuming from this piece your are a TA. You’ll make a most excellent teacher if this is your path.
    It’s obvious you have the capacity to “see” beyond. Beyond the limitations/labels assigned to Jack as a result of his diagnosis. How easy for some to simply give up because, well, they say he/she has (fill in the blank) “what more can we do?”.
    Jack is a lucky boy to have you in his life.July 11, 2013 – 10:49 amReplyCancel

  • K - Thank you, thank you, thank you for your encouraging comments. I truly appreciate each and every one of them. And Kristi, thank you for allowing me the privilege to share my thoughts on your incredible blog! xoxoJuly 12, 2013 – 10:41 pmReplyCancel

  • Joy - Wow. This is awesome and wonderful. I have goosebumps.July 23, 2013 – 2:45 amReplyCancel

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