Sunday October 28, 2012
Consummate, gifted teacher Marcia Smith ... From page 18 smile from Marcia is not always guaranteed, since according to her “as special as they are, they are smart enough to take my smile for granted.” In a single word, Marcia sums up her teaching c a r e e r, i n s i s t i n g w i t h conviction that it is “satisfying”. “At the end of the school day I can laugh because even though the day might be stressful there is something that I would've done that, even in some small way, helped to make a child's life a little better; they gain a little bit more understanding and can do something more for themselves…” Although she has benefited from formal teachings and much reading on her own, it was the handson experience with her own son Jared, who is currently seven years old, that gave her the extra vigour and resilience to cope with her needy students. At 33, Marcia was already the mother of three wonderful children, Delicia, Jewel and Joshua, trying her best to overcome the everyday challenges of life, when she discovered that she was pregnant with a fourth child. Although she was fully aware by then that with each pregnancy various issues could surface, she was certainly not prepared for the tumultuous experiences that would come with her latest pregnancy. Without revealing too much detail, Marcia recalled that that time of her life was pretty much traumatic, so much so that it not only affected her, but unexpectedly, her unborn child. Flung deep into the depths of despair, overburdened by anguish and left to suffer in silence, aptly describes the journey that Marcia was forced to trod. The experiences that she endured are enough to leave many daunted for eternity
but in fact, served to furnish her with unbelievable understanding, while at the same time propelling her to compassionate heights that differently-able children so need and deserve. Her experiences caused her to channel her energies towards ultimate upliftment, which has not only helped to transform the life of her son, who medical officials had given-up on, but today has allowed her to embrace her calling to help bring new meaning to the term differently-able. Although, her last son's entry into the world was relatively normal, it was not until he was around two years old that she recognised that something was drastically wrong. Having raised three children before him, she soon realised that he was not developing in a way that incorporated the normal childish language. In fact, she recalled he spoke nothing, but would merely point to things that he wanted. “I took Jared to regular clinics as he got older but he still was not saying anything, and all this time I'm thinking to myself 'just now he would be ready for nursery (school) how in the world is he going to cope?” In the face of her concerns, Marcia optimistically placed her young son into the Cherish Lambs Play Group, believing that interaction with other children would stimulate his speech. Her expectation was soon dashed, paving the way for her to confront her worse fears during a routine clinic visit. By this time she was beyond the level of frustration, even battling sleepless nights in her quest to figure out what was wrong with her son. She made the bold move to disclose her son's situation to a medical professional, who in turn, invited her to attend a
Time out for a group photo. Marcia's daughter, Jewel, stands behind her. workshop at the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre. The workshop was spearheaded by the British High Commission and was facilitated by a psychologist whose revelations helped to confirm her fears. She would soon come to terms with the fact that her son was autistic. “I was given a list that showed the normal development of a child and the signs of autism and when I matched the two that was when 'the rubber hit the road'.” She recalled that her son attended the East Street Nursery School, without saying a single word, as autism restricted his ability to process even the simplest of words, rendering him incapable of constructing sentences. She remembers feeling financially restrained and overwhelmed by information that there was no cure for her son's disability. According to Marcia, she was on the verge
of surrendering to her fears when a massive force erupted within her very being, encouraging her to go the extra mile for Jared's sake. That was the turning point in her life, which saw her shedding all uncertainties and confronting her fears with education coupled with intense prayers. Her first move was to enrol at the Adult Education Association where she undertook programmes dealing with Child Care and Care for the Elderly, which she recalled were facilitated by Christine King whom she dubbed “the best lecturer ever”. “I was curious, I wanted to know what could have caused this problem in my child,” Marcia recounted. She would learn that, not only after birth, but during the early developmental stages of the fetus bonding on the part of both parents is important. Based on her teaching,
she was able to ascertain that although the lack of bonding may not affect all children, there is a small percentage that requires that extra bit of attention to develop ideally. “I wish that both men and w o men b ef o r e h av in g children would do a crash course in Child Care to see the importance of being with that child from conception and not only from birth. That fetus hears from the time it starts to develop and that fetus knows rejection…I learnt so much during that course and I just wanted to learn even more.” Marcia's newfound knowledge saw her endeavouring to defy the odds, by convincing herself that Jared would overcome his disability. She learnt, and in some cases invented, ways of demanding his attention and was soon able to communicate with him through gestures. To the astonishment of many, by the time her son
was prepared to enter nursery school he would speak for the first time, and has never stopped embracing his sense of speech. “I often say to his brother and sisters, 'don't ever let me hear you telling Jared to shut up'. In fact, shut up is not to be in any of their vocabulary. The most we say to him is to slow down.” Thanks to her intervention, today her son is an average Grade Two pupil at Winfer Gardens Primary, and she continues to direct vigilant attention to him as she seeks to replicate her success story with her 14 students enrolled at Gifted Hands. Marcia is convinced that “if every parent of any child could devote five undivided minutes out of their busy schedule, that child could be anything he or she wants to be…even president.” The resident of Hadfield Street, Georgetown, is convinced that her quest to ensure that differently-able children are able to find their rightful place in the society is currently being fully supported by the Ministry of Education, which has sought to amplify their importance in its Education Month theme. The Ministry of Education celebrated a month of activities commencing September 1, last, under the theme “transforming the nation through inclusive education”, a notion which Marcia Smith has been driven by for the past few years, understandably making her a very special person.