Michael Wight and Elementary School After TBI

Michael Wight and Elementary School After TBI


Michael Wight: Take me out to the ball game … Aaron Wight: Michael is one of the happiest
and most friendly kids I have ever met. Everywhere I go with Michael somebody knows him. Debbie Jones: Michael is always, always a
friend to people. Michael Wight is a fourth grader at Switlik
Elementary in Jackson, New Jersey. Susan Magee: Michael is the mayor of Switlik.
Everybody knows Michael. Debbie Jones: The way he treats people — he
just gets treated the same way right back. Amy Mansue: It’s always so interesting to
watch people interact with him because their first reaction is to feel such sadness, what
a terrible story. And then you meet Michael, and it’s this big smile and this joy of
life and this thankfulness. On August 9, 2006, when Michael was four years
old, he sustained a traumatic brain injury during a car crash with his sister, Mackenzie,
and their grandmother. Nicole Wight: She went through an intersection
and was hit by a truck on the driver’s side and a sedan on the passenger side. Nicole’s mother was killed. Michael and
Mackenzie suffered a long list of injuries, and both were in comas. Mackenzie woke up
after a week, but Michael was unconscious for months. Even after he woke up, it was
weeks before Michael could communicate. Nicole Wight: There was a very specific moment
when Michael woke up. We were in therapy with his OT at the time. She was stretching Michael’s
arm, and he just went, “Ow!” And we both like stopped. But she looked at him, and she
said, “Could you say, ‘Hi’?” And he looked right at her, and he said, “Hiiii.”
It was very long, and it was very drawn out. But he said it, so she asked him to say it
two more times. And he said it two more times, and all three of us were sitting like this,
bawling our eyes out because it was the first time he had spoke anything in months. And
I knew at that moment he was going to be okay. Thanks to Children’s Specialized Hospital,
the Wights already had a team in place to help continue Michael’s recovery. Amy Mansue: So you have a team of people that
are around you, led by a doctor, and then a team of occupational therapists, a speech
therapist, a physical therapist, and then the team of nurses that are really with them
the most. Those nurses also understood that Michael
and Mackenzie’s TBIs meant altered personalities and special needs. It meant that things would
be different — very different — and that the whole family would need to adjust. Nicole Wight: This one nurse, I don’t remember
her name. She said, “The children that you had, you need to grieve those children. You loved
those children, but you’ve lost them. They’re not going to wake up and ever be those kids
again.” And I struggled with that for years and years. Aaron Wight: I make the best of it. It is
what it is. I can’t change it. There’s nothing I can do to make him quote, unquote
normal. He is who he is. And he’s happy being who he is. Even though Michael was dramatically changed,
Nicole and Aaron were committed to making school a part of Michael’s new normal. Amy Mansue: The child receives schooling every
day during the course of their treatment, so there’s a special education educator.
So the transition home, a really critical element of it is making sure that that child
transitions into that school district and they have the supports they need. Look, sometimes
the school districts partner and it’s great; and sometimes it’s a fight every single
step of the way. And so part of our ability is to make sure that that parent has access
to the resources they need. Nicole Wight: I had all these people telling
me, “We would love to have him here, but his condition is too severe for him to be
in a regular school right now, in Jackson.” And that completely broke me in pieces, because
you just — you’re just like, “Why can’t my kid be normal? Why can’t my kid be okay?
Why did this happen to us? Why did this happen to him?” So I was like, “Well, what’s
the next step?” And I’m sure I was not pleasant at all with these people, and they
were very patient and kind to me. Switlik Elementary agreed to welcome Michael,
and soon his circle of support grew wider. Debbie Jones: You make a para proud. Nicole Wight: Michael has occupational therapists
at school, speech therapists at school, physical therapists at school. He has a paraprofessional
that’s with him 100% of the time, he has a teacher, and he has an in-class support
teacher; and then he has all of the special teachers like computers and art and gym and
all of that like all of the other kids do. I strive to make good choices at Switlik School. The result is a very full day for Michael.
He starts with the other fourth graders in Ms. Kaklamanis’s room. Susan Magee: If you’ve ever seen somebody
being bullied in school, it’s gonna be an “A” for “yes,” “B” for “no.” Maria Kaklamanis: The co-teaching in the Jackson
school district works with two teachers in a classroom. You have your general ed teacher
and your special education teacher. Susan Magee: The purpose of the mainstreaming
is to include all students in a regular setting with regular peers. Susan Magee: Michael. Michael. I feel really
upset when you leave me out. I really would like you to start playing with me. Oooh. Thank
you! Wow, look — an “I” message totally changed things! I told him how I was feeling,
and he finally threw me the ball! Susan Magee: Including Michael in the fourth
grade classroom is easy. It really is because everybody wants to be his friend. The children
are very passionate, and they’re warm-hearted to Michael’s situation. And I think Michael’s
parents have done an excellent job informing his peers and the community about Michael’s
disability. Girl: You want to help me tell Emily that
she can’t come to my party? Michael Wight: Yeah. Susan Magee: That’s a great idea. Boy: He’s going to love that part! They make it look easy, but it takes a lot
of planning to include Michael in the mainstream fourth grade classroom. Maria Kaklamanis: The kids are going to continue
doing their research projects. Everyone’s up to date with their facts and their sources.
We’ve done our research. Has Michael been able to do the same? Susan Magee: Yes, Michael — we took the
same exact graphic organizer, and Michael chose his country. Michael had picked Australia
to research. He’s filling out the same form that all the other students are filling out.
What he’s going to do is — we pulled some pictures and graphics. Maria Kaklamanis: So we shouldn’t do the
outline. It’s gonna be a little bit too complex. Susan Magee: Right. Exactly. So we’re gonna
use pictures and then simple sentences. Michael gets a lot of good social interaction
and content knowledge from his time in Ms. Kaklamanis’s class; but because of his brain
injury he needs extra help in basic skills, like reading and writing. So Michael also
spends a portion of his day in small group pull-out instruction. Susan Magee: Michael is mainstreamed for science,
social studies, and writing. And then he will be in the pull-out classroom. That’s a classroom
that contains six other students for both literacy and math. Susan Magee: Michael. Kid: I like Michael. Michael: He was a big, fat caterpillar. Susan Magee: He was a big, fat caterpillar. Susan Magee: Michael is not reading on a regular
fourth grade level. Michael is at, I would say, a mid- to end-kindergarten level. But
the skills that he has acquired and learned throughout the last few years have been wonderful.
When I started with Michael two years ago, Michael was well aware of the alphabet and
letter sounds. But blending and phonics and writing or constructing sentences, was a real
struggle. So words such as “ship” or “chunk” he often confuses. So that’s where I would
work also with Michael’s speech teacher to come up with strategies to help him with
the “sh” and the “ch” sounds. In addition to collaborating with Ms. Magee,
Michael’s speech therapist also works with him one on one. Jeanette Roth: We’re going to do our “b” sound
at the end of words today. We’re going to make sure our lips are coming together and
we’re not using our teeth on our lips. And then we’re going to record. Michael: Bob. Jeanette Roth: Yeah, that’s not the correct
way right? Michael: No. Jeanette Roth: We have to put our lips together. Jeanette Roth: Primarily we’ve been working
on his articulation errors. So basically Michael doesn’t always remember to articulate his
sounds correctly all the time; therefore, there’s a breakdown in communication. Jeanette Roth: Okay, let’s try this word,
“rhubarb.” We’ve got two “b” sounds so we’ve really got to put our lips together
twice, okay. Computer: Rhubarb. Jeanette Roth: Record. Michael: Rhubarb. Jeanette Roth: Double “b” there, and you
still did a great job with those “b” sounds. Computer: Rhubarb Jeanette Roth: How was that? Michael: Good. Jeanette Roth: Awesome. Jeanette Roth: When I first started working
with him, he did struggle with communication. A lot of people did have difficulty understanding
him. Within the last year he really has made significant progress with his speech production.
So that means that as far as social skills and socializing with his peers, he’ll be
able to interact better with them and be able to have more activities that he can participate
in. To work on physical strengthening, Michael
spends time each afternoon doing exercises with his physical therapist. Physical Therapist: Pick your foot all the
way up. Good. And now the other one. Good. These activities are designed to strengthen
Michael’s muscles, improve his coordination, and push him toward greater physical independence. Physical Therapist: Try it again. Get your
body ready. Are you leaning on the walker? Michael: No. Debbie Jones: Yes, you are. Physical Therapist: Come forward just a smidge
because I know you’re not using your muscles right now. There you go. Through all of this is Debbie, Michael’s
dedicated paraprofessional. Debbie Jones: I’m his personal paraprofessional,
so I pretty much start with him from the minute the bus pulls up to the minute the bus pulls
away. He’s like a child to me. He’s almost like one of mine. I’ve been with him since
first grade. He’s very much a part of my life, even outside of school. Michael’s
changed my life, just because he trained me how to treat people. And Debbie isn’t the only one grateful to
have Michael around. Susan Magee: What are you going to say? Michael: Homework is the best! Susan Magee: Being Michael’s teacher is
the most rewarding experience for myself. For the last ten years, I’ve never had a
student like Michael before. Watching him over the years just progress in to just a
spunky, smart, silly young boy is just very rewarding. Susan Magee: Mike, do you like homework? Michael: Yeah. Susan Magee: You do?! Debbie Jones: Really? Nicole Wight: Honestly my hopes and dreams
for him have not changed at all, not one bit. He has done everything I’ve ever dreamed
he would. The way I look at it is — he had his first word, and then he had his first
word. And he had his first step, but then he had his first step. And it was the second
time that he did everything that made me appreciate everything so much more. Just the other day
I went in with his laundry, and I said, “How are you today?” And he went, “Oh, I love
my life. I’m really happy.” Who says that? Unless you really truly are, and he really
truly is. 6

Comments

(6 Comments)

  • i hate snakeu

    Yesssss my BOI Michael he is my friend in real life! He is the nicest and happiest person I know.

  • Makayla's DIY

    I'm in Mrs Hughes class in that same room

  • New Wight

    Good video

  • Shameka Howard

    I can very much relate to the grieving of your lost child during this process. My 6 year old was hit by a car in Feb 2017. I too am having a very hard time with leaving the past behind. I have cried everyday for my child. I do not know how to get past this. My heart has been broken beyond repair. I am however greatful and thankful that after seven months he is attending school, taking slow steps by hiself, talking and eating on his own. He has small tremors when trying to use his arms. He has dramatically improved and we continue to work constantly. I will not give up but I am seriously broken on the inside. Thank you for your story. I can relate and have a hard time finding stories on young children with this problem.

  • Hailey Cavanaugh

    I went to switlik now I’m at Goetz but I remember him

  • WastedZymbol

    Should have never removed the comments on the Cranial nerve test video with Pat Lafontaine! You’re welcome with all the views btw.

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