Born Fabulous

Episode 11 - Part 3 - Interview with Jeannie Harris - Parents and Teachers Get Battle Weary

June 07, 2019 Season 1 Episode 11
Born Fabulous
Episode 11 - Part 3 - Interview with Jeannie Harris - Parents and Teachers Get Battle Weary
Chapters
Born Fabulous
Episode 11 - Part 3 - Interview with Jeannie Harris - Parents and Teachers Get Battle Weary
Jun 07, 2019 Season 1 Episode 11
Greta Harrison / Jeannie Harris
Jeannie Harris discusses her son Tim's school years of general education inclusion and exclusion.
Show Notes Transcript

Jeannie Harris discusses her son Tim's school years. She gives stories of inclusion and exclusion all leading up to the point where she was ready to 'let Tim go'. Tim owned Tim's Place, a restaurant that served hugs on the menu. He became famous for collecting over 70,000 hugs and meeting great people like President and Mrs. Obama. Tim has a successful speaking career now. Tim happens to have Down syndrome.

Speaker 1:
0:01
Hello. My name is Greta Harrison. Welcome to born fabulous where we speak with parents and accomplished individuals who just happen to have disabilities. You're about to hear episode 11 which is the third part of a five part interview with Janie Harris. Janie is the mother of Tim Harris. Tim is famous for owning tennis, place a restaurant that listed free hugs on the menu. Tim currently has a very successful public speaking career. Tim is 33 years old and has already had a very exciting life full of travel and meeting wonderful people like President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. Tim happens to have down syndrome. Janie is a retired former business owner. She and her husband of 38 years. Keith have four sons. They love to travel often as sailors. Jenny calls herself a student of life. We met at one of Tim speeches six years ago now. Please enjoy this clip of love as a potion. The lyrics were written by Melissa Regio who was the focus of episodes one through four, the music and voice, or by Rachel Fuller.
Speaker 2:
1:08
[inaudible] [inaudible].
Speaker 1:
1:50
So what about elementary school? Let's talk about that.
Speaker 3:
1:54
So elementary school was interesting. He, um, he wasn't able to go to his homeschool when by the time he reached kindergarten. And so, um, he was bused to a neighborhood, a neighboring school who had a, it was, they had us a special Ed d level program. Um, but I was already, I, oh, another thing about Tim's, um, preschool years was, um, we started going to NDSC when Tim was nine months old.
Speaker 1:
2:25
For those who don't know, tell everybody would NDSC. Yes,
Speaker 3:
2:28
yes. He is the National Down Syndrome Congress and every year they have an annual convention that has all built latest and greatest updates on research education. I don't know. Granted my say, am I filling it in?
Speaker 1:
2:44
Yeah, I think that's good. There they bring national speakers and it's how we highly recommend it. Yes. Yes.
Speaker 3:
2:50
And we've tried to go every year since Tim was born. Um, it's now, it's like a big family reunion and I can't even describe what it was like that first year going and being in a room with over 2000 people were in the exact same situation we were. It was very human and very comforting and very scary all at once. Yeah. So in Tim's early education, I want to get back to that. So we were all about inclusion. Inclusion was kind of new and on the forefront and not very many school systems had adopted any kind of inclusion program. And so what, and, and we lived in Albuquerque by that time and Albuquerque public schools is huge. It's, I don't know how it compares nationwide, but it had, it has over 30 elementary schools, I think something like 14 middle schools and five or six high schools.
Speaker 3:
4:01
So you're talking like a huge organization. Is that when you're trying to, to look at, wow, this organization needs to change. It's a big deal. So I didn't tackle it that way. My husband and I, when Tim went into elementary school and had to start, well, we had to start this whole IEP thing at a very young age. Um, but, um, we would go to every IEP with an idea in our head that somehow our son was going to be included. So in kindergarten, um, this was really interesting. We had a very open staff who, Tim was in a Tim because he was in special ed, got to do all day kindergarten, which back then was a kindergarten, was only half day. And so he went to his, um, special Ed d level classroom, which for younger parents, that's eight students to one teacher and um, and it's the, the in the, in their own classroom.
Speaker 3:
5:04
And um, so he went to that class in the morning and that's where he got his physical therapy and speech therapy and other therapies that he had the rights to at the time. Then in the afternoon, the school was open to it and he went to the regular kindergarten just like any of the other students. And, um, that was how we started with inclusion and inclusion was that way for us. The rest of Tim's, um, school, um, time in public school, um, was we made it up as we went along every year. Like, all right, we've, we fully believe in collusion. We would go every year to the new teachers and show them what we learned about how it helps tip not only Tim, but helps the ordinary students in the classroom and just would get the teacher's ear to look at making adaptations that had Tim in a regular classroom for at least some portion of a day. And that went on up until, um, high school. Well, it went on a little bit through high school, but it was in high school. He was more, um, less, less, um, included then in elementary and middle school.
Speaker 1:
6:29
Oh, we're going to get to high school, but correct me if I'm wrong, didn't by the time Tim got out of elementary school, wasn't it an inclusive school by the time he got out or am I wrong?
Speaker 3:
6:38
No, I don't. I don't know even know if it is today. I mean, uh, okay. Okay. We'll tell you one thing that happened was his, one of his teachers earlier on was, um, his special ed teacher in when he was in second grade. Really also believed in inclusion and the, and then when Tim was in fifth grade, she on her own went to the, the administration and sa and she changed, she was a dual major. She was dual degree, so she could either teach special ed or regular Ed. And so she became a regular ed teacher and then teamed up her classroom with, uh, with the, with a special ed teacher who was interested. And so they did not have a separate class. They had two teachers in one classroom. But unfortunately what happened, it was chaos because then what happened was all the other teachers, the rest of the school said, Oh Huh, well this kid is a problem, so they should go in that classroom. And so they took all the kids that had challenges and, and put him in that classroom. And I mean, when you look at inclusion, if you look at true inclusion, it's like 2% of the population are people with disabilities. So 2% of your classrooms should be disabilities. Well, this was about 50, 50. And it was too, they couldn't, it didn't, it didn't last because it didn't work.
Speaker 1:
8:05
I'm glad you brought that up because that still goes on today and I call it dumping. And what they do is they call these classes inclusion classes. So basically everybody was an IEP goes to the two, usually one or two classes. When you're in a large district for grade, they'll have one or two classes, but they don't, they don't every IEP there. And Anna, I'm not saying every school district does this. I know my school district does, I know several around me do. Um, but that's called dumping and yeah, that's not inclusion. Inclusion should be proportionate like you just said, which is about 50 in a, in a school it's about 15%. Give or take, 12 to 15% of your students are going to have an IEP. So that's the proportion you should have in a class. And I've been saying that for years. So. Great.
Speaker 3:
8:54
That makes me really to hear you say that because this was back in early 1990s and, and I'm sad to hear that there's not been more change. Um, and also I will tell you that like in a, in a few in it, in some of the occasions when we would go to people and talk about inclusion, um, kind of versus mainstreaming or they used to call that mean dumping where you pull them out for library or something. But Anyway,
Speaker 1:
9:26
um, uh, that, uh, some of them,
Speaker 3:
9:30
the special ed teachers would feel threatened. They would feel like their jobs were threatened. But the whole, like if people really looked at the idea of inclusion,
Speaker 1:
9:38
it's that idea of a regular ed teacher working in conjunction with a special ed teacher in one setting, um, that they're both equally
Speaker 3:
9:53
necessary. And you know, I, I hated to see anyone who felt threatened by, well, if we do inclusion, then I don't have a job. Of course you have a job of, you know, you can't do this without
Speaker 1:
10:06
you. Right? Of course. Yeah. Of course you have a job, right? And you should be able to walk in a class and not be able to, if it's a Koto class, not be able to tell who's the general ed teacher and who's a special ed teacher. Right? They should be. That's how it should be.
Speaker 3:
10:21
Well, it's money. If they were to actually really do
Speaker 1:
10:24
well, no, it actually costs. What happens is that they don't want to pay for two teachers in as many classes as need to teachers and that's the reason they don't have enough co-taught. They've pulled the co-talk classrooms, many of them in my district for budget reasons. Oh, so it costs, it's costs money. And again, I'm not picking on my district because I have a great administration. I'm just saying in general this happens across the country
Speaker 3:
10:49
drug and you're talking about what in general there's challenges from all perspectives,
Speaker 1:
10:54
right? Right. Yeah, that's you're, you're exactly right. That's the way it should be done, but it's not the way it is done. So
Speaker 3:
11:03
I like to use the word could be,
Speaker 1:
11:05
could be. I like that we could the end it is being done in some places and it is being done in some places. There are some wonderful districts around the country that are doing that.
Speaker 3:
11:16
And I will tell you like for the parents who are, who's this subject really reaches them is those are the people who are doing that are probably the people who will be speaking on it at the national convention. So you'll, you would get the latest and greatest on what those school districts are doing, what's working, what's not and, and you can take that home with you. I mean that was very encouraging for us all through Tim's, um, education was being able to go and see what other people are doing and taking it back to the school.
Speaker 1:
11:50
That's exactly right. And one little tip that I'd, I believe in is I put no pullouts in my daughter's Iep so that when they dumped her in these inclusion classes and the special ed teacher pulled all the IEP, he's out. My daughter actually got real inclusion because she was the only IP left in the class. So she got at least she got the General Ed Instruction and she benefited. But it's sad that we have to do stuff like that. Very Sad. So, okay, let's move on to high school. Well, middle and high school. Is there anything you want to share about middle school? Because there is that bridge between elementary and high school. How was Middle School for 10?
Speaker 3:
12:28
They're middle school. Uh, I believe was a turning point for Tim on like him feeling excepted. Elementary was rough by the way. I don't know what that was like for you, but kids can be pretty cruel. And elementary school was rough for Tim, like out on the playground and, and his brother actually, he and his older brother. When Tim. Okay. So Tim went two years and then he did get to go to his homeschool and his brother was in fourth grade and he set up a fourth grade patrol where there were about eight kids who patrolled at recess. They took turns and patrolled at recess too. And to watch for people picking on Tim. Oh Tim was the first person with down syndrome to attend to that elementary school ever. Um, and the principal back them up, they had a no tolerance policy for any kind of fighting or anything like that.
Speaker 3:
13:41
So the fourth grade patrol led by my older son would get the name of the kid and their teacher and then they don't turn them into the principal and the principal every time pulled the kid out of the classroom and brought him to his office and they got in trouble by the principal. So elementary school was rough in that perspective in that way. By middle school, Tim social life really started climbing because kids, they knew him from elementary school, but they had kind of more awareness of, I don't know, they kind of looked out for Tim. It's, it's kind of interesting. They felt protective of them. They, they started, that's when people started calling him our 10 in this, in the schools. So that was the, the social thing going on and, but what was happening in the classroom was very concerning to me at first.
Speaker 3:
14:36
And that was, we went to this, he went to the d level classroom and it was Tim's first male teacher. And he had some ways that I was really concerned about like, um, he, because Tim had down syndrome, he said, Tim needs to work on his dick steer seat and I need to teach them how to snap in zip his pants and some things like that. And then my alarm bells are going off and I'm going, well, Tim has known how to do that since he was seven years old. You don't need to put that on his IEP. And he said, well, you know, I've had kids with down syndrome and my classroom before. And it was kind of like that, like, and so this needs to go on his IEP. And my husband and I were starting to get to the point where we were a little bit tired of the fight, so to speak, of of every IEP.
Speaker 3:
15:31
Like, well, this is what our son needs, this is what we want them to have it. And No, this is you guys, you know, the IEP stuff. And, um, and so we said, all right, let's, let's put it on there. Six weeks later I go to check in and the teacher pulls me aside and he said, you know, Tim needs to need, knows how to do all this stuff on his own list. Yeah. So for me it was one of those lessons were sometimes, and I've learned this over the, over the course of the years that that sometimes Tim needs to be the one to tell people and show people rather than hearing it from mom or dad and I'm sorry, but the teachers end up getting battle worn, weary, worn themselves. And so my husband and I got to a point where we started setting up our IEP meetings after that to be more, we're all on this team together and I don't know what was about my husband and I made because we were business owners, but I have expected the teachers to think we were going to walk in the room with a lawyer or something, you know, but, but we would put them at ease going, this is what we're here for.
Speaker 3:
16:47
We're all on the same team. And we're going to look at getting the best education that we can for our son. And we did put up our battles where we needed to and put our foot down where we needed to, but we didn't make the whole thing about it. And because trust me, the teachers are battle weary.
Speaker 1:
17:06
That's a good point. That's a, that's
Speaker 3:
17:08
one 30, you know, 30 years later I'm really sad, but they're even more battle worn.
Speaker 1:
17:14
They're their battle. Warren and I know parents who unfortunately feel like they always have to fight, fight, fight, fight. What we were told from the time Tim was born that we had to fight and, and you do need to, I just don't like the word fight. You do need to advocate strongly and do all those things. Any, you're right. Um, but, but think about your story about what a child senses from the time they're born. If, if somebody is always fighting, the child's going to sense that too. Right now I want to go back a little bit to this story. I don't think that, like if I were to go
Speaker 3:
17:50
back now, if I hadn't been sold battle weary, I think I would have fought that teacher about, for instance, putting that on tunes IEP. So I'm not advocating that you just step back and just let them do whatever they want because they were trying to put him in a basket. You know, they were trying to put them in a box that said, this is what the boxes, we knew that Tim didn't fit in that box. They didn't. Right. But they, this teacher might have left him in that box, but he didn't. And that teacher Tim ended up being, he was, Tim's had teacher for three years in middle school. And this man, if we had written him off Gretta, I don't know where Tim would be today. He taught him how to read and got Tim's reading up to at least a fifth grade level. He took him from elementary reading to being able to function in the world today.
Speaker 3:
18:50
He taught him how to, how to keep time, you know, how to, um, I guess you, the best you could say was he, he was the start of Tim's some major education but also his, what we then used to call community based training. I don't know what it's called now, but he took, for instance, he, he knew he had the skill and knew how to break down a job. So one of the things that he did with Tim and probably other kids in his classroom was he had agreed that his classroom would go clean the cafeteria after lunch every day. And so at one o'clock they had to get up from their desks, uh, go to by themselves to the cafeteria, go to this sink and the place where you get the cleaning. So you put the cleaning soap in a bucket, you know, I'm telling, I'm telling this in detail because this is what he did.
Speaker 3:
19:42
He taught him step by step. And at first it was with little guidance like, okay Tim. And he taught me how to read a clock with the hands, right? Cause they're in a school with a clock with the hands. I mean just little things that you don't even think of. How many kids even know how to read a clock with hands anymore? Right. I was just thinking that way. It got to the point and I don't know how long this took even, but it got to the point where at one o'clock Tim knew what time it was holding up his book, got up from his desk, went to the cafeteria, did his job and came back without being told what to do. And I can't tell you what that training had done for Tim to be able to go on and get through what he needed to do to go to college and in his work life and giving speeches and his independence.
Speaker 3:
20:32
Because I don't know if the audience knows the tenants fairly independent in that sense of accomplishment. I, you know, you want, you have to watch not so much the teachers, but the aides who will do the work for your children. Like watch for that. It's like, but this man is one of my heroes because he, once he learned who Tim was and saw what he could do, he took him to the next level and I will be forever grateful for this guy. So yeah, that's why I don't, don't be so quick to go into the battle and just fight the battle. Like, so there were a lot of people who took their kids out of that man's classroom because of something or other. And I believe they missed out, but he did go to bat for Tim about, um, there were some classes that Tim was able to take in his middle school with the, with regular Ed.
Speaker 3:
21:31
He not his basic, um, educational classes, but there was PE and there were all the, um, classes that were Tim to go and, and, and blend in. And He, he went to bat for Tim to go to regular PE because Tim was very athletic at the time and very active still as the [inaudible] as a child and very coordinated. And, um, the, the PE teacher didn't want to let him go to regular PE and she was concerned about him. I mean, but she wanted to fight and she felt threatened because she's gone, but she was using it. Well, what if he gets hurt? What about when you do archery? What if, what if he gets hurt in the, in the PE teacher just said, well, when it comes to archery, if you can't do it, I'll have them do something else. You know, it's like, and so this teacher, the one that I almost wrote off, you know, it went to bat for Tim going, of course he should be able to do this so well, but no. What, what battle you're fighting, right?
Speaker 1:
22:36
Well, and you know, I do need to bring up though, I know a lot of younger parents now who are, their kids are being denied. Even electives, a five year old, you can't take art. You can't take PE. This is crazy. It is crazy. So I'm glad that, that he, it sounds like Tim made in an exclusive and inclusive experience wherever he went just by being Tim. And am I correct?
Speaker 3:
23:04
Well, in those days he had us looking out. I mean, he could, he couldn't do it then other than at this is when he started going out in the hallway between classes in blending in more with kids and things like that. But we had, I mean we did have to work and, and we're challenged to every year to set up these um, inclusive settings. And I don't want to say that Tim had an inclusive education, but we did set up, um, ways for Tim to be a part of the regular education population where, where possible
Speaker 1:
23:38
you did the best you could, where ever you could. Right.
Speaker 3:
23:41
And that's maybe where Tim, you know, learned it by watching us. I mean, we watched and had expectations that and, and little things like we didn't, we had them ride the regular school bus. We had him like, and by the time you got to middle school, we didn't have a bus. He walked to school with the neighborhood kids. You look for ways, how can your kid have as normal a life as possible accepting that some of the life you have to make accommodations and you have to do extra things to help them, but be careful not to go too far beyond that and look at how your son or daughter can have as normal a life as possible and look for ways that that can happen
Speaker 1:
24:33
and looking at the big picture. So in high school and high school, Tim had Tim had a good experience. He was the homecoming king for goodness sakes, right? Yes. Now that's the kind of thing that you see about in newspapers and you see it in the media when it happens. What does it feel like to be the parent when that happens?
Speaker 3:
24:52
Magical. It was magical. I mean, we knew from the time he first went to a homecoming in ninth grade that he, he told us that he was going to be homecoming king someday. This is, this is what I call the magic of champion. There's, there's just, just like he told us he was going to hog the president. He told us that he was going to be homecoming king and we were like, you know, that's nice to have your dreams. And we supported him. Um, and he started like, he had a drive to be involved and so he had a teacher who helped him sign up to be the high school mascot at the football games. And this was, that was hilarious because he's so, okay. This is my sweet part, my, my, uh, mother biased of account of this story where he's just so sweet that people like just love him.
Speaker 3:
25:48
And so anybody else who was the high school, the school mascot, which is the Eagle, which I'm sorry, but Tim is a sweat monster and he puts this eagle costume on and he would dance around and he'd be sweating. I thought he'd lost 15 pounds every time you did it. But anyway, we're supposed to be a big secret who the mascot was. We'd have him, you know, we, we'd have the thing in a bag or whatever and he'd be telling people as we're going to the game or as we're leaving school that day, make sure to come to the game today. You're going to see the mascot. The mascot is really cool secret, but you don't know who the mascot is. And everybody knew it was Tim. And then he gets so hot, tip it up and there's this great picture that actually was hung in a local restaurant who highlighted the high school of Tim in this mascot costume with his space and the smile and you know, everybody just went along with him.
Speaker 3:
26:41
You know, that was the, that was the thing I was telling you about how people would look out for chin. Um, and you know, some of his bully stories to where other people looked out for him, which we can tell later. But, um, anyway, uh, so it started with him getting involved. Um, and then he didn't want to sit in the cafeteria with his class. He knew that the other kids, his brother and other kids were out in the cafeteria standing in line to get a Burrito or pizza and that's where he wanted to be. And he have his own volition. Made that happen. And how did that happen on his own? Yeah. I'm going to take a little bit of credit. My husband and I started advocating for him when he was three weeks old and I think he learned to advocate for himself by watching us and by other people who came in and advocated for him throughout, throughout his life.
Speaker 3:
27:31
Right. But it was something that he picked up for himself and started doing it and doing it against us sometimes. Like when he became a senior, he knew that seniors got to leave campus and go across the street and get a Burrito. And he told his teacher, when I'm a senior I get to leave campus. And his Special Ed teacher was, oh, I don't think so. And we had to go get permission. Kids, kids wanted to take him out in their cars to go get a burrito and they were friends and, and you know, he, he was insistent and made it happen. And I'm wandering now, but, um, the involvement that led up to homecoming king started with him just getting involved, going out in the courtyard. Did he get bullied? Yeah. Did he get teased? Yeah, but you know what? He never came home and told me this story is his worst Berlin bullying story.
Speaker 3:
28:30
I didn't find out until nine months later. He just lives his life in the moment. And, and that was contagious and the people who needed to be in his life and who needed to be there to help him were drawn to him and it was out of our hands. And, and that's, I guess I'm telling the story that led up to us letting him have a more independent life. But at every stage there's some letting go and there some pain that goes with it and you can't always protect your kids. But I found out you don't always need to because there are other people who do.
Speaker 3:
29:13
That's true. There are good people in this world letting you talk about some of those stories where Tim was bullied. Huh? He loves to tell this one in his speeches. Um, I'm sure it may be got exaggerated a little bit over the years, but what we found out was, um, at the, the school because he, um, they wanted to let the kids in his special Ed d level classroom out early to go catch the bus and not get caught up in the big crowded hallways. And so Tim always had this 15 minutes at the end of the day where he was kind of out on his own. Well, apparently there were these two boys that were kind of more or less taken him down for his leftover lunch money every day. And one day the varsity football team was coming out and going to the field. And the captain of the football team was a friend of Tim's that I didn't know about.
Speaker 3:
30:18
This is, this is another thing, Tim had friends that I didn't know who they were friends, but she um, saw that he saw these guys picking on Tim and he got the team and they went over there and the way Tim describes it was um, and I'm not condoning this, but what Tim said was they dented the lockers with those guys and you enrolled them like bowling balls, those guys. And they told, we talked to the captain later and I don't know, I'm not saying that there was violence and I'm sure they would've gotten being troubled nowadays if that happened. But the, Chris turned out to be a really good friend of Tim's who was the captain of the football team, just said, we let them know and told them and that if we ever ever see you messing with him again, you're in big trouble. And they left him alone.
Speaker 1:
31:22
And W I think in his speech he talks about, he says something like, it sure is nice to have friends on the football team or something like that. Yeah. Are they are. They didn't know that I, that that the football team or my friends or whatever. Right, right. Yeah. Right. And I'm sure the football team appreciated him being such an enthusiastic mascot and supporter of them, right?
Speaker 3:
31:43
Yeah. Yep, Yep.
Speaker 1:
31:45
Yeah. That's the power of Tim Power of Tim. Thank you for listening to the 11th episode of born fabulous. I hope you enjoyed it and want to hear more. In episode 12 Jeannie Harris talks about Tim's high school and college years sharing more great stories. That episode comes out June 14th to learn more about Tim and see some photos and videos, go to www.bornfabulouspodcast.com if you haven't already, please subscribe to born fabulous podcast on iTunes or any podcast directory. Please like us on Facebook and Instagram. We also have a youtube channel. Now. Please enjoy this clip of the ring lyrics start by Melissa Regio, who was the subject of the episodes one through four, the music and voice, or by Rachel Fuller.
Speaker 3:
32:38
[inaudible]
Speaker 2:
32:53
[inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible].