Chandler mom: How my son succeeded The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler mom: How my son succeeded

Chandler mom: How my son succeeded

By Tanya Bogue

Guest Writer


Thirteen years ago, we were advised to place our son Derec in a confined class for kids with special needs. 

He was entering kindergarten that fall. It was difficult for a child with so many challenges to be mainstreamed in a regular class.

Derec could barely talk, he couldn’t write, he couldn’t walk but we knew he was smart. We took a leap of faith and decided to place him in a regular classroom.

We decided to get him a service dog, Heinz, – the first service dog in Arizona to go to school with a child being mainstreamed – and wrote up Derec’s long Individualized Education Program. 

 Derec and Heinz were off to their first day of kindergarten at a Chandler public school. It was not easy.

But with the help of aids, counselors, therapists, friends and a lot of caring teachers – plus the love of Heinz – Derec flourished. 

We had one main goal for Derec: have as much of a normal childhood as he could.

You have no idea how many times we wanted to put a safe bubble around our child, who we knew didn’t look or act like a regular child, to protect him from a not-so-nice world. 

It was not easy to find a balance of protection, a safe road to independence for him. It was hard when he asked to be free of his instructional aid in junior high and to let the security of the paraprofessional go but we did it and never looked back. 

We took many gradual steps in the years through elementary, junior high and high school for him to gain independence with always the thought in mind we could make adjustments when needed.  

This frame of mind helped us make many successful decisions in Derec’s journey throughout these years.

 His peers showed kindness and compassion to him throughout the years. This is something you can’t plan for, but was a nice lesson to see how kind kids can be. 

Children with disabilities aren’t hidden as much as they once were and it shows in how comfortable this new generation is to be around someone different.

 It has not been easy. Every year we reexamined where Derec would go. We would ask ourselves how would he do college algebra in his head since he cannot write it out. Or write English papers with weak muscles and extreme tremors.

But he somehow always managed. He never complained – not once, not ever. He never asked why him or said he couldn’t do it. Never. 

He would ask for help and would move on. Now, he is graduating with the class he started within kindergarten. He is graduating from Basha High School with excellent grades and a dream to be an engineer. 

To say we are proud would be an understatement.

We want to thank public schools, we want to thank all Derec’s teachers, those public school teachers who went beyond their duties to teach a disabled child in a regular classroom. Who looked beyond the wheelchair and the disease and help see Derec’s strengths. 

They did things above what the law requires over and over. Year after year we saw what teachers and assistant teachers did to help advance Derec in his education. 

We want to thank the people before us who fought for The American Disabilities Act and the modification of the Individuals with Disability Education Act in 1997. 

Without laws none of this would of have been possible, this is the sad truth. 

Too many times in our life Derec’s successes came because the law was on his side. A lot of our politics comes from having a child with a disability. You see how important one law or one policy can be. 

If we are sure of one thing it is laws make a difference – and so does the teacher who happily accepts the law as if it didn’t even need to be there. 

The law mattered when it came to Derec getting an education the way we thought fit, with us making decisions from the beginning to the end. 

We worked closely with teachers, who helped write his IEP. We trusted trusting the system, yet made sure the system worked for our family.  

Derec amazes us every day and the world is lucky to have him in it. We are lucky, too, to live in a country enabling the disabled and gives them a chance to have an equal education, a road to independence. 

Every day of struggle was worth it, and we can’t wait to see what the future will bring as he ventures into adulthood.

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