My name is Michelle Gonzalez-Yoder. I am a fourth generation Colorado Native. I live in Brighton, Colorado with my husband Richard “Dick”, my two amazing children who teach me something new each day, my nephew who came to live with us in 1999, and my mother Aurora who came to live with us in 1997 along with my father Mike who just recently passed. Having such a diverse family over the past 10 years has been very interesting, exciting, and has helped me along with my journey. Shayne my daughter, who is the oldest of the three, just turned 21 years old in February 2008; she’s a very happy young lady who loves to ski, Jet Ski, most importantly exploring the Rocky Mountains, and is also one of my honor students who have received her academic letter from Brighton High School. My son Christopher, who will be 18 years old in April, is the second to the oldest. He is such an amazing young man and actually started teaching me the importance of just being a kid when he was just 4 years old. He is another one of my honor students who started college at 15. Next is Stefano he is my nephew who loves to joke around and has been an asset to our family. I work for Brighton 27J School District at the Brighton High School, as a Sub-Teacher. I am also the Commanding Officer for the Ft. Lupton Young Marines in Brighton Colorado. I sit on the Colorado Special Education Advisory Council (CSEAC) for Colorado. I have been appointed by our Colorado Governor to the Colorado Interagency Coordinating Council (Past Co-Chair), The Colorado Disability Planning Council, and have served on several boards across the state for children with disabilities.
I’m going to fast forward now to the School System. Shayne was “identified” to receive Early Childhood Education. Shayne attended Swell Child Development Center which at that time was for children who were diagnosed with a disability that caused a delay in their development. She received her first Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) under Part H services known today as Part C of IDEA, when she was almost 2 years old. Then she transitioned into Part B school services at the age of 5, and received an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which she has today. During the beginning of her education, Shayne spent most of the time in the hospital, so she did not receive early childhood development and interactions with other children.
Because of Shayne’s medical life, she was not a happy child. As a result of this, Shayne started developing behaviors which I call “survival behaviors” from being poked and prodded during her hospital encounters. Time went by and in 1997 Shayne sustained a head injury while she was at school. The school district chose to address Shayne's behaviors by restraining her in a chair that eventually tipped over. This incident changed our lives dramatically, and since then Shayne is now a different person. She was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on top of everything else. This module is meant to tell our story of how, if appropriately addressed, Shayne's behaviors could have been managed more effectively and she would not have had to endure the head injury and other mental health issues that came out of the tragic incident in 1997.
Shayne is a very loving young lady, who unfortunately has several behavior issues that have been created since birth by the systems that have been in her life. Since 1997, survival has been key for us when dealing with the behaviors she presents on a daily basis. We have learned how to continue our journey while trying to work with each behavior for however the duration may be. Because of this we have struggled with the school system and her educators in understanding how to support Shayne without blaming Shayne.
Shayne has changed our lives forever. As a family, we have grown and thrived because of Shayne. Her brother Christopher, at the age of four, helped me to understand how Shayne is a child first and not all of these labels that have been given to her since birth. Once he asked me during one of her IEP meetings if I thought he was “special” because no one tells him he’s special like they tell his sister and even “strangers say she’s special” meaning OT, PT, SPT, etc, which he took for the term “Special Needs”. My children are special each and every one of them in their own unique way.
Shayne has taught us all compassion, understanding, persistence, endurance, and most importantly being a complete, and happy family. This is what educators need to know first because the other (behavior problems) do not define us, especially Shayne. I’m a very lucky mom as I look back and view all the obstacles I have endured, and those obstacles have taught me a lot about what is important and what is not, and as a new Special Education Teacher how important it is to talk and, most importantly, include parents in their child’s education!