I’m Thankful For You: Miss Toni

(Editor’s Note: This article was provided by Elizabeth North and is part of Cooper’s, ‘I’m Thankful For You’ Campaign.)

I am writing in honor of Miss Toni, my daughter’s unassigned personal aide in school. She has taken on more than one could ever expect for a personal aide. She does not just care about programs, ABA and her academic success, but instead cares about her emotional growth and loves her like her own child.

In 2016, my daughter Seraphina was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. Although, I knew she had autism from the time she was about 18 months, the moment I received the diagnosis, my heart sank and my mind went into a distant blur. As a mother with five children, finding out my youngest had ASD, I was shocked and overwhelmed.

In the first few months we had to make significant changes but I had to believe as a family we were working to make the best life for our entire family. I spent a year trying to find the best programs, supports and therapies for her while balancing my other four children. As the youngest child of 5, each child had to make sacrifices for Seraphina.  I was floundering as assignments were missed, emotions ran high and I had to ask my other kids to make transitions off teams, from schools and into new positions that they never expected.

The time and money we had spent on private school, gymnastics and family outings immediately turned to creating a life that would give Seraphina the best chance possible. It took nearly two years to implement a team that would begin to orchestrate Seraphina’s growth and development through home and school life.

Though my daughter has always had loving aides and teachers, I worried. I never felt it was enough and I wanted to do anything and everything I could to find a little peace when she was out of my home. When my daughter was assigned Miss Toni, it happened. For the first time in my life, I sent her off unafraid.

I know during fire drills she will be protected and loved, I know when she is tantruming and overstimulated she will be cared for with kindness. I know if I am needed I will be called. I believe another child in my inclusion class said it best “I see your daughter with her other mommy at school.” Yes, sweet child, that is why I am at peace, Miss Toni is not just her aide, she’s her other mommy.

This woman has become the biggest key to her growth and with that in mind, I wish to honor Miss Toni. She has taken on more than one could ever expect for a personal aide. She doesn’t just care about programs, ABA and her academic success but instead cares about her emotional growth and loves her like her own child. I knew this was true when she let me know she brought her own daughters pink blanket to school for Seraphina to sleep under when she took a rest. Though it was the first week of school, she was already taking steps like a mother to create a safe space for my daughter to calm her active mind and body.

Last year, I was floundering as assignments were missed, emotions ran high but this year, knowing Seraphina is safe, loved and challenged, I am able to return to helping in classrooms, volunteering to help my other children and support them when it seemed those days had slipped by with the words “autism diagnosis”. Though my daughter has always had loving aides and teachers, I never felt it was enough and I wanted to do anything and everything I could to find a little peace when she was out of my home. With Miss Toni, that peace is in my heart and on my mind from the moment she arrives at school until she is safely back in my arms.

(I have been following Elizabeth’s blog, Messy Blessy Momma for years. I encourage you to follow her story. She is a strong, beautiful soul and I have often found comfort in her writing. I love this piece: In The Stillness)


You can still nominate the doctors, therapists, teachers, friends and family that make a difference in your special needs world. Click HERE to learn how!

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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