Friday, May 17, 2013

T T T (toilet-training Tommy)

Last week I introduced 'Tommy' (click) here. 
He was one of my students back in the late 80's and early 90's.

So 'Tommy' settled in quite quickly after he learned that he could do things
he thought and never imagined he could do.....
one being going up a flight of stairs.

He became very popular with the general student population
at this high school. He gravitated towards those students 
who were good at sports and ones that were on student council.

He was liked by everyone he met and he loved being around them.

You see before this 'Tommy' had been in classrooms in schools
which were segregated from everyone else most of the day.
In fact, he was in a school that was only for kids who had
'educational challenges' for most of his schooling
prior to coming to high school.

'Tommy's' parents were older than most high school-aged
student's parents, and having 'Downs Syndrome' this, I feel,
made his parents very over-protective of him.

They were sweet, caring people and gave him what they felt
was best for him. He needed to be protected, they felt.

This was a difficulty/difference of opinion I would have to deal with
a number of times in my teaching career......over-protective parents
not wanting to let their child go and discover things on their own.

So, let's get back to 'Tommy' and his first couple of weeks in high school.

The classroom itself was pretty self-contained, that is, having it's own 
bathroom facilities. This was good and it was not so good at times.

I will never forget the day when 'Tommy' had to go. It was no big deal I thought.
He knew where to go and I forgot about it.

About a half hour later I, and the assistant, could hear this squeaky voice
saying: "Mr.C (me) I'm ready."

I thought, no problem, he is finished and was just letting me know.
That was not the case at all! He continued to say that he was ready.

I knocked on the bathroom door to tell him I was coming in. 
That was fine with him. I could 'see' that he had completed the task
and was just sitting on the toilet.

I asked why he was sitting there. 'Tommy' told me that I could now
wipe him because he was ready.

I stood there not believing what I had heard. I had just assumed that
he knew what to do now.....he was sixteen years old.

Nope, he was not budging until I did what his mother had done all his life....
up until now, that is.

I very calmly told 'Tommy' that he would have to learn to do this 
by himself because that is what everyone else does. And besides,
his Mom was not here to help him and I was not about to do it either.

I really think the poor guy was stunned. This had never happened before....
and it wasn't about to.

I instructed him how this procedure would take place and that he was 
very capable of doing it. He was not happy and very scared and unsure.

I unrolled several hands-full of toilet paper and lined them up in a row
along the sink edge that was nearest to him. I told him exactly what to do
 and how to do it and left the room.

Another half hour passed. The rest of us busy in the classroom.
Then I could hear the bathroom room open. 'Tommy' entered the
classroom very quietly and sat at his table.

I could tell that things went well and that he was proud of himself.

The rest is history. 'Tommy' became a very popular student at the school.
He became one of the most accepted students there.

I remember graduation. 'Tommy' got a standing ovation 
 when he proudly walked across the stage to get his diploma.

I was so proud that day. I loved that kid and still do.
I have 'kept up' with what he has done over the years.

Both his parents have passed away and he now lives with a sister
and her family. He has been working since he graduated back in 1994
in a restaurant run by people with challenges and which is open
to the public. We have eaten there a number of times.

Two years ago 'Tommy' got another job in his community working at
a gym/fitness facility. He loves it!

One more thing....I told you he was a 'big guy'. Over the past
five years or so 'Tommy' has slimmed down to a weight that
is normal for his height and age.

I didn't recognize him the first time I saw him thin. 
He and I both laughed about it. He looks great.


  1. Good Morning, Jim,
    I had forgotten about you doing this on Fridays and I'm so delighted! I love to hear success stories of this sort. I am proud of him too, especially now that he has gotten control of his eating habits. Kristan has trouble with her eating habits... Must be his job at the gym.
    Have a great day now.

    1. Thanks Sharon. They aren't all success stories but the ones that were are great to remember.

  2. Tommy's story doesn't apply to Tommy alone. So many of us don't know what we can do because we're afraid to try. Thanks for writing this post.


    1. Very true Janie! We are all basically so much alike.

  3. Tommy was lucky to have a caring teacher lik eyou.

    1. I really liked working with this 'population',Pat. I also felt I was the lucky one to have worked with them.

  4. What a great story, Jim. Your job must have been quite challenging, but also very rewarding. Individuals like Tommy should be encouraged to go as far as they can. Being overprotective can stifle potential, although I do understand that parents do it out of love, and because they believe it's the right thing to do.

    1. It was very challenging at times Martha. But the successes made one forget about the tough times.

  5. I am always so happy to hear when people and children with Down's Syndrome are doing well. Some day soon, I will write my sister's story, she could do very little as she had the most severe form, but what a joy she was.

    1. Inger, I had forgotten that your sister had Down Syndrome. I know what you mean when you say the 'joy'.....they have that in spades!

  6. And how great that you worked with these kids.

  7. What a difference you made in Tommy's life. I'm proud to know you.

  8. Thank you Terry. Funny thing, I really feel he made such a difference in my life as did most of the students I worked with. I learned so much and I can only wish that they did.


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