What I Learned From The Haefele Family

Shortly after I woke up this morning, I noticed that Royan Lee — an amazing Ontario educator and one of my favourite bloggers — published a guest blog post by Andrea Haefele. I’ve been trying to think about when I got to know Andrea. I think that it was through Royan and his blog that we started to connect online. Royan has published other guest blog posts by this incredible educator and her journey as a mom of two young children: one of which, has autism. Andrea and I have never met in person, but I’m determined to change this one day. She inspires me so much by what she shares through Twitter, and it’s through some of her guest blog posts, that I also feel as though I get to know more about Andrea, as an educator and as a parent. 


Bella and Andrea

When I read Royan/Andrea’s post this morning, I was moved to tears. Since I began teaching, I’ve had the privilege of teaching many students with autism, and as I’ve shared for the past few years on Autism Awareness Day, what I’ve learned from them has positively impacted my classroom teaching practices. I must have been still waking up when reading Royan/Andrea’s post though, as I didn’t realize until a later tweet, that a video was included of Andrea, Bella, and Petie at home. Petie, Andrea’s four-year-old son, narrates this video — or at least most of it — and we get a chance to see Bella’s life through Petie’s eyes. It was this video (shared below) that inspired me to write Andrea and ask if I could share her story on my blog.

There is a lot of “amazing” in this video, but here are my biggest takeaways.

  • Children can be incredible teachers. Watch Petie interact with Bella. I love his use of visuals. I love his word choice. His instructions are short, clear, and repeated frequently enough for success — and coupled with excellent models. I think we could all learn something from the Petie’s in this world.
  • Assistive technology is a wonderful thing. Look at how the technology gave Bella a voice, but also gave Petie a way to interact with his sister. As a Kindergarten teacher, I also think about the reading that he was doing thanks to the visuals (and the link between the visuals and the words). All children could benefit from this.
  • Self-regulation matters … for everyone! I think of the number of times that Petie had to repeat instructions, or even the patience involved as Andrea and Petie worked with Bella to teach her something new. Notice their voices and actions though. They were consistently calm. Imagine the benefits for Bella, and the impact that this must have on her own ability to remain calm.
Petie and Bella

Petie and Bella

My last takeaway comes from more than just this video. It comes from a combination of what was shared in Petie’s story, in Andrea’s letter, and in the multitude of tweets that I’ve read from Andrea over the years: a label does not define us. Bella’s diagnosis could have resulted in a very different outcome, but Andrea and her family, work hard to help Bella succeed. High expectations coupled with support really do matter. On Autism Awareness Day, I think about the Haefele family and what I learned from their story. What did you learn? Do you have your own story to share? 


Andrea’s Final Note In Royan’s Blog Post This Morning

Bella and Kadence

Bella and Kadence

Last year, our family was given an incredible gift by the Lion’s Foundation of Canada (LFC) in the form of an Autism service dog for our daughter, Bella. Kadence provides safety and emotional security for Bella and has become an integral part of our family and her school community in the process. Please donate HERE to help the LFC continue to provide guide dogs to Canadians with disabilities and their families.

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