Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014


This past week has been so special!  Aaron's sister Teresa came into town Wednesday.  Aaron's sisters and I have spent most of the time since then together.  Lots of eating out (Pizza Pie Cafe, Golden Corral, Leatherby's), Thanksgiving planning, and just hanging out.  I sure love all of them.  :)

Kaitlyn's 11th Birthday

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cavemen VS. Bingham

Friday was a special day for Andrew.  AF Highschool's football team made it to state finals.  -I hope I said that right.  Anyway, on Friday AF played Bingham.  The game was at 2:30 pm at Rice Eccles Stadium.  AFJH sold over 1300 tickets for the game, so they excused all of the students early at 12:30.  Aaron took Andrew and his friend Dakota. 
Aaron was so funny before the game.  Cavemen's colors are red, black and white (The same colors as the Utes).  Binghams colors are navy blue and white (The same colors as BYU).  Aaron doesn't have any Cavemen apparel, and he wasn't about to wear Utes colors to the Utes' stadium.  Ha ha.  He found a red Angels cap and called that good.  :)  Love my guy. 
Bingham defeated AF 20-3.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sweet Service

It makes me so happy when I see my kid's blessing other's.  On Wednesday Abby had Activity Days.  She and the other 8 and 9 years olds in our ward made pie at Elise Moon's house.  They had been there for about an hour and it was dark, so I decided that I would pick her up.  I saw Abby walking with all the girls.  I pulled up and she told me they were taking pie to Lori Rowley.  Lori has been sick for about a year now.  She has cancer, stage 4 :(.  I pulled up to her home, and watched as the girls went inside.  I wanted to go in, but I didn't want to overwhelm Lori. 
Abby told me that Lori wasn't feeling well, so the girls went to her bedroom.  They sang her a song.   The spirit was really strong. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

We're So Lucky

This is a picture of Brody's principal, Liz Banner.  An amazing woman you'll see as you read the article below.  I feel so blessed that Brody is able to attend school at Spectrum.  Brody's done so well this year.  No meltdowns that I know of.  Whenever I ask him how his day was, his reply is always, "We had fun!"  I'm grateful for the teachers, paraeducators, principal, and all of the volunteers who are so dedicated to our kids.  Thank you for all you do!  :)

November 16, 2014 6:45 pm • Spenser Heaps DAILY HERALD

Photos: Spectrum Academy principal finds motivation in her own family

PLEASANT GROVE -- As Liz Banner walks the hallways of Spectrum Academy, she can hardly make it 20 feet without being flagged down by a staff member or student for a question, conversation or simply a hug or high-five.

As the principal of a charter school serving more than 400 students with autism, Banner is always on the move. And, somehow, she always seems to be smiling.

"Obviously I love Spectrum Academy; I'm kind of giving my whole life to Spectrum Academy," Banner said with a laugh.

When most people say they are giving their whole life to their job, it can usually be brushed off as hyperbole. When Banner says it, she means it.

Banner said she could never imagine herself where she is today when her youngest son, Jackson, now 14, was diagnosed with autism.

"At that time, there was not a lot out on autism," Banner said. "I did not know anything."

Despite the fear and uncertainty that came with Jackson's diagnosis, Banner said a part of her was relieved.

"I though, OK, now we know what we're working with, let's try and figure this out," she said.

A couple years in the public school system left the Banners dissatisfied with the programs available for Jackson. Banner said the teachers were doing the best they could, but with such large classes of other students to tend to it was impossible for them to give Jackson the personal attention he needed.

Banner had worked as a dental assistant for years, but decided to go back to school to get a degree in special education. At the same time Jackson was accepted as a student at the Spectrum Academy in North Salt Lake, Banner was hired as a paraprofessional and then accepted as a teacher. With a long waiting list to get into the school, Banner said she felt like the stars had aligned for them both to get in together.

Eventually, Banner went back to school again to get a degree in administration, and last year served as the North Salt Lake school's principal. Now she's the principal of Spectrum's brand-new campus in Pleasant Grove.

Banner said she never would have imagined herself as the principal of a school for autistic students when Jackson was diagnosed. Going back to school not only changed her career, it helped her learn about her own son.

But it wasn't without its challenges.

"It was a long process for my whole family and for my older kids and everybody," Banner said. "They had to really step it up and do a lot of things so I could go back and get my degrees."

At the same time, having a child with autism has allowed Banner a greater insight into how to run a school like Spectrum than she would have had just from her own educational path.

"It just gives you an experience that I don't think anyone can have that doesn't do that every day," Banner said. "It also gives me, I think, a perspective on the parent's side, that understanding of how they're feeling and what they're going through and that anxiety. ... I've gone through all those different emotions."

What makes Spectrum Academy different is the individualization it's able to provide for its students. Class sizes are roughly a dozen students with a teacher and a paraprofessional. Almost all of the students are on Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs, which set specific goals for each student.

The small class sizes allow teachers to develop a deep, personal knowledge of each student's unique needs, and every summer the instructors spend countless hours to make sure students have a seamless transition to the next grade level.

The school also spends a half-hour every morning teaching social skills, with an emphasis on positive reinforcement on social cues throughout the day. The school has speech therapists, speech techs and occupational therapists on campus every day.

What it really comes down to, Banner said, is the passion the school's teachers and paraprofessionals have for helping the kids. The recipe has been remarkably successful and has made entrance into Spectrum a hot commodity.

The North Salt Lake school has approximately 560 students on a waiting list. The Pleasant Grove school, only a few months into its first year, has roughly 50.

Banner said the education provided by Spectrum has a profound effect on the students and their families. She recalled a parent of one student who had been unable to work when her child was in a public school because she would be called in to help nearly every day. Banner said the parent came into her office in tears and thanked her for giving her her life back.

"That's why I do it," Banner said. "That's why I put the long hours in and that's why my family is so supportive, because they've seen the hardship of it and they've seen how really tough it is some days to go through it and how tough it is on Jackson.

"These kids, they don't walk away from it ever, and we can. So we've got to look at it from that perspective."