The following year, I am taught one-on-one in a closet taken over for speech therapy. The kids in my class pin cut-outs of the first letter of their names on their shirts so I can remember them. When I become overwhelmed, my aide takes me to do pull-ups in the gym.
Years pass. Slowly but surely there is progress. I talk late. My temper improves. I walk through galleries at the Met discussing the art. I thrive with tutors, therapists, special education services and hard work. In high school, everything begins to make sense. I go from failing math to achieving 100% on quizzes, from being unable to write a grammatically correct sentence to being published on NPR’s “This I Believe.” I can understand, memorize and explain Shakespeare. As for standardized tests, they’re not my forte.
Returning to student-teach at the same preschool I terrorized thirteen years ago has been an emotional journey. I recognized myself in Thomas from the first day of class; we are connected. He mirrors my old rituals, breakdowns and needs. I wish I could tell him that I know what it’s like, that I’ve been to a place not far from where he is. That I know it’s hard, harder than it sounds, maybe impossible. That it will take drive and determination – and staring down mythical beasts. Of course, I can’t, but every day I try to do a little something that maybe he’ll remember.
Jacob Presson is a New York-based actor and teaching artist. He uses
creative and nontraditional approaches to theatre as an educational tool
to promote collaboration and foster self-advocacy in all types of learners.
A graduate of Wilton High School, Jacob earned a BA in Acting from
Marymount Manhattan College, NYC, and is in the final year of a
three-year Masters of Fine Arts program in Acting at the School of Drama,
The New School, NYC. While in preschool, Jacob was misdiagnosed with
Autism Spectrum Disorder; he has ADHD.