About a decade ago, we lived across the street from longtime Plano residents, the delightful Nancy and Gary Gamble. After we moved in, we quickly realized that their son and daughter-in-law, Travis and Karen, were members of our church.
At the time, they had a baby boy named Grayson. And he became my buddy. Whenever I saw them in the Gamble’s front yard, I would go outside and play with him for a little while. As he grew into a toddler, he would run down their driveway and zip across the street into my open arms. If we saw each other at church, Grayson would wiggle in Karen’s arms if he saw me approaching in the hallway until I got close enough to give him a hug.
Needless to say, he stole my heart. After we moved from that home, Karen and I remained in contact because of church and community volunteering. I haven’t seen Grayson very often, but I’ve tried to keep up with him and his sister, Caroline, as much as possible.
Along the way, Karen shared with me that Grayson was struggling with developmental milestones. Eventually, having been diagnosed with autism, as he entered kindergarten they enrolled him in the Resources Class. They have tried hard to find the right place
for him, but it hasn’t been easy. He has been in six schools in seven years. Because he
changed schools so often, he was rarely invited to birthday parties or playdates and
would sometimes hibernate in his room, watching videos and occasionally crying from
loneliness. Grayson is now at Pioneer Heritage Middle School; Caroline is at Allen
Elementary in Frisco ISD. Hard to believe that nearly 10 years have passed since waiting for him to dash in my direction. I felt privileged that he would trust me enough to want to play with me.
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I bumped into Karen, literally, at a cheerleading competition in January. Caroline and
my niece Reilly take lessons and are on teams at the same location. Of course, I wanted
an update on Grayson. After a competition in April, she couldn’t wait to tell me about a pilot program at his school that the theater teacher initiated this year and how much Grayson has benefited. Here’s her story, in her words.
“Grayson told me the other day that 6th grade has been the ‘best year of his life.’ I give all the credit to the teachers at his school, especially Anton Bucher, the theater teacher. He launched a pilot program as an elective for the SPED kids (special education) called ‘Partner’s Theatre.’ Each SPED student has two buddies who have to apply to be in the program. The trios worked together to develop and perform a variety of productions this school year, including lip sync battles and one-act plays. Mr. Bucher found a small role for Grayson in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and he loved every minute of rehearsals and performances. This spring, he and two other SPED boys have parts in Xanadu! For the first time Travis and I can remember, Grayson has friends, real friends. The students at Pioneer Heritage have embraced Grayson, and all the SPED students, in a way I never knew was possible. He has a passion, an outlet, and enthusiasm. Mr. Bucher is our hero!”
Several dear friends have been blessed with children who have extra special learning and mental differences. Each of them speaks highly of the superb opportunities that Plano, Frisco, Allen and our other local school systems offer to them as students and parents. The teachers? They are all superheroes in these parents’ eyes.
Over these next 12 weeks, you might be vacationing, however, although our superheroes might take a short break, the teachers will be back at it soon. For them, it’s a 24/7/365 mission: developing more ways to positively impact your students—to give them opportunities to change someone else’s life just as Grayson’s has changed this year.
Happy summertime to all of you!