Last April, I introduced my older brother Michael to our learning support staff at one of our meetings. He was visiting me from Toronto and I introduced him as my inspiration for working as an Educational Assistant (EA).

When Michael was three years old, he and my mom were visiting family in Germany and they were in a terrible car crash. He was not expected to live and was in a coma for three months. Michael survived, but suffered a brain injury and his body and face was crippled.

He endured 10 years of multiple operations. People stared at him and made nasty comments; school held hurtful memories for him. Back then, 50 years ago, children were not included in the regular school system; they were segregated and attended separate schools. Michael was teased and picked on all the time. He came home crying every day.

This made a huge impact on me.

Respected, loved, dignified

I brought Michael to meet our staff to encourage them and for them to see how far we have come over the years with special education. He lived in fear those days of being yelled at and even hit.

Michael now lives in a group home with other adults with special needs. They are treated with respect and dignity. I am so happy for my brother, who has a care worker takes him on trips and treats him like a real person.  

Not too long ago, I was reunited with a student I worked with when he was in grade 1. He had difficulty self-regulating and when he was angry, he became violent. This student said to me, “Mrs. Janz, when I was little you were my mentor.” I asked him what he meant.

He replied, “You taught me how to read and you were always patient with me and loved me, no matter what.”  

Now, I know it takes a village and many others at school helped him to grow, but I felt so honoured to have made a significant difference in his early years. 

We have the awesome privilege of helping special need kids with learning, with friendships, with social awareness and helping them to be accepted and integrated into a community. 

We do make a difference in children’s lives…