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R-XVI did more than educate my son

By Linda Emley

On March 20, Steve Hitchcock was the moderator for the Richmond School Board candidates forum and I went to see my friend moderate. As I sat waiting for it to start, I thought to myself about all the things I should be doing. I even felt a little guilty being there because the school board no longer affects me since all my children are grown.

After it was over, I realized that it does effect me and everyone else who lives in Richmond because it’s our future citizens that are being molded by this school board and the staff they support.

Many issues were discussed. Teacher retention and salaries are important, but one of the most important duties of a school system is helping “all” students get a good education. I had a “special needs” child, so I have a different view of education.

In the good-old days, schools weren’t always the best at taking care of children who were different. They were labeled as a “problem child” and many dropped out or never made it past 8th grade.

In 1979, my oldest son started kindergarten in Richmond and my youngest son graduated from RHS in 2011. I saw many changes in my 32 years as a Richmond parent. I want to share the story of my youngest son and what it is like to have a child who is different.

My son is an “Aspie.” He has Asperger’s syndrome, which is also known as the “absent minded professor” syndrome.

Aspies have high IQs, but lack normal social skills because they march to a different drummer.He looks like a normal 21-year-old, but he has been 30 since he was 5. He plays video games while listening to CNN. He’s a very serious person whose world is black or white. There are no shades of gray.

One day he was sitting in a shopping cart while we waited in a check-out line. There was a guy ahead of us buying cigarettes. My son asked him, “Did you know those things will kill you?” The guy laughed and said, “I’m sure you’re right.” So my baby boy said, “Then why are you buying them?” To make a long story short, life is different at my house.

Asperger people usually focus on one topic at a time, which leads them to becoming an expert on that subject. My son can discuss world politics, but he does not know the postal zip code for Richmond. Why would you clutter your mind with small details? He has no friends his age because he has always been an adult. He does not like change, loud noises and most people.

People have speculated that these famous people are or were “Aspies”: Robin Williams, Henry Ford, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Beethoven, Dan Aykroyd, Mozart, Michelangelo, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Alfred Hitchcock, Bill Gates, Bob Dylan, Howard Hughes and Elvis. These people excelled in their chosen fields, but for everyone who makes it, there are many others that don’t.

I want people to know how the Richmond School District helped my son get his eduation. I can’t name everyone, but I want to share some of their stories. It started with Julie Hyder, Julie Harris, Julie Stockton and Gracie the Wonder Dog. They first introduced me to the term Asperger’s. Julie Hyder has a dinosaur picture hanging on her wall that my son made and they have a bond that will always be there. Lynn Schumacher was the next teacher who made a difference for my son.

No one likes change, but it’s harder for an Aspie. When it came time to change school buildings, we had to find a way to make the change seem normal. We were lucky because Julie Stockton and Gracie the Dog moved with him to his next school, where Damon Kizzire and Piper Petterson helped.

Julie Hyder arranged for me to be a youth friend in his summer school classes, and by the end of summer he was feeling safe in his new school building. Damon Kizzire met with my son’s psychologist and we created a notebook about Asperburger’s. He even created a safe room in the office where my son could sit in his bean bag chair and read his encyclopedias. I remember looking through the window of his safe room door and wondering how we were going to make the move to high school.

Debbie Gill made his move to high school go smoothly. Martin Griffin, the RHS assistant principal at the time, and my son learned to apprectiate each other. He was sad to see Martin leave and go to Hardin, but I explained that it was a good move for him.

Some of the high school teachers who made a difference were Bob Lauck, who had my son for first hour math for three years, Brandon Quick, Jared Ripley and Steve Hitchcock. Another positive factor was Mike Gonder, who had my son in his class at Lex La- Ray Techinical Center for two years.

Richmond is lucky to have Superintendent Damon Kizzire and the same applies to Martn Griffin at Hardin.

I’m sorry this story isn’t about “history,” but it is about our future. All Ray County school districts are choosing school board members on Tuesday, April 2, so please vote because it does matter who is watching over our schools.

How about one small history lesson about  April Fool’s Day? I checked to see when it started and it’s been around since the 1300s. Two of the best April Fool pranks were by fast food chains. In 1996, Taco Bell ran an ad in several major newspapers and announced they had bought the Liberty Bell and were going to rename it the “Taco Liberty Bell.” The National parks department, which takes care of the bell, got phone calls all days asking about its new owners.

Since I’m a southpaw, I really enjoyed hearing about the 1998 prank by Burger King and their new “Left handed Whopper.” They ran an ad in USA Today that claimed that ketchup would drip from the right side instead of the left side. I didn’t know a round burger had a left or a right side.

I love April Fool’s Day, so be careful if you hear me telling you some wild tale on April 1. Coming soon will be a story about how Dr. Cook, Jack Pointer and Howard Hill made sure any day could be an April Fool’s kind of day around Richmond.

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