We work pretty hard over here on encouraging our kids to do hard things.  Hard things are really hard when life in general feels really hard.  Does that make sense?  For our son, going to the basement without a sidekick is really hard.  Walking past an ant is hard most days.  Thunder is really hard since it might mean a flood or a hurricane.  Yes, we live in Denver.  Doesn’t matter.  The things we take for granted as being non-issues in our day to day can overwhelm our Dude.  New situations and new environments that are unpredictable and uncomfortable raise his sensitivites to levels that feel physically uncomfortable.  We’ve learned when to push him and when to offer grace and understanding.  Doesn’t mean we’re good at practicing these things, but we’re far better at it now than we were in years past.

Starting 5th grade is a big whompin deal.  For all of us.  We start our year before that first bell rings with teacher meetings, discussions about fears and capabilities and expectations, lots of hugging and deep breath prayers.  We expect bumps, peaks and hope for a lot of flat land.  Flat land is really good land.  Dude’s first days went really well, so much so that his morning teacher called to tell me so.  BLESS.  When I picked him up on that first half day, he got in the front seat and said, “Mom, I decided that I am going to run for student council.”  I pulled over.  I looked at his sea like blue eyes and smiled.  He was calm and collected, like he had just announced a fart.  He does that a lot.  He explained that he wanted to be a leader at his school, plan parties, make speeches, and teach kids with special needs that they can do hard things like run for student council.  Because he has special needs and he can do hard things.”  Can we pause here for a quick sec?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………  I might have stared at him for a hot minute without showing any sort of recognition of his words.  And so he repeated them.  I was so floored and so adrenaline filled at this revelation that we drove home, put that van in park, took a snack to our round kitchen table and started writing his speech.  This moment was NOT going to pass us by.  No sir.  He dictated his speech to me and it went a little something (well, it’s exactly as he wrote it) like this.


Hi, my name is Rylan Vogelzang.  I’m wondering if I can join Student Council!  I have special needs and I’ll tell you more about that at the end of my speech.  Here’s why I want to join Student Council.  I will be highlighting being SAFE, RESPONSIBLE, and RESPECTFUL using characters you might recognize!

Being Safe

I choose Joy and Fear from Inside Out for being safe.  I added Joy because if you have Fear by itself, you would be afraid of everything.  But if you add Joy you can be happy and safe at the same time.  It’s important to be safe at school to not bump into other people, not to fall down the stairs like I did already, keeping your hands to yourself, to not blow your anger top, to use kind greeting words, and not running on the black top or running into trees.  (showed images of Joy and Fear on overhead projector)

Being Responsible

Blazion is a Yokai character who is a lion with a firey mane.  I’m choosing him because he enspirits or possesses you to be MOTIVATED.  Motivation makes you pumped up and ready for the day!  Blazion will make you want to FINISH Math, Science, Reading and all your subjects and be responsible for your work.  Boom, boom, boom!  Without motivation, you might feel lazy and say, “Whatever, I don’t want to do this.”  Blazion’s tribe’s name is BRAVE.  Bravery can help you make new friends, to talk to people if you’re really quiet, to try new things and other stuff like that.  I have to be brave to make new friends because you never know if they’ll like you.   (again, showed image of Blazion on overhead projector)

Being Respectful

I choose Baymax from Big Hero 6 for being Respectful.  He helps people when they’re sick or hurt.  He’s kind, squishy, and I chose him because I love robots.  The owner who made him said he would help a lot of people and he did.  He made sure they were safe and gave his own life in the end of the movie for Hero’s life.  He has to pay attention to the people around them and be respectful to his friends.  As students we have to listen to our teachers and put others first to be respectful.  (showed doll of Baymax)

I want to be on Student Council because I believe Peabody needs to be SAFE, RESPONSIBLE, and RESPECTFUL.  I also want to join student council to teach people about what it means to have special needs.  Special needs are things you were born with or got during life.  Having special needs means it’s hard to control your brain.  I have Tourette Syndrome and I can’t control my noises and ticks.  Other kids with special needs might not read well like Dyslexia, or have seizures like epilepsy or have blood sugar problems like Diabetes.  I want to be an example for kids with special needs because I have special needs.  I’m not contagious and you can be around me and other kids with special needs.  I want to be a part of this because I want everyone to learn about special needs and to be nice to kids like me.  I want to encourage other kids with special needs to do hard things like join Student Council!


FRIENDS, he delivered this speech with confidence and ease.  He did his little motions and ticked away with his squeaky noise ticks the entire time.  I watched from the side of the room and wanted to jump up and down like a cheerleader with ants in her panties.  But I didn’t.  Instead I gave him a thumbs up, a proud Mama Bear smile, and snuck out of the room.  And then I started preparing myself for how I would help him cope with not getting elected.  I know, downer Mom.  But it’s a popularity contest.  I could see that in the room.  They don’t look at him and see what I do.  Bravery, endurance, joy, humor…do they?  I prayed they did, but I suspected they didn’t.


3 days later, I would like to introduce to you the newest member of the P…School Student Council, Ry Guy V.  He got a whole slew of votes and he never doubted it for a second.  No big thing, other than he’s SUPER proud of himself.  As are his parents.  He can do hard things – just not the hard things we think he should be able to do.