“There was a time in Jaime’s life defined by the word remedial. A quest for ways to compensate, accommodate, make up for what was lacking. It was a time when deficits, gaps, needs, were pretty much all I could see and find. I remember the agony of those days, the permanent dissatisfaction, the sense of helplessness. His and my own. Measured against the mainstream, Jaime always seemed to fall short and disappoint. The harder we tried, the less anything, even he, made sense.
Then Camphill School happened. It was instantly rewarding. For the first time ever, Jaime was truly agreeing with himself and his surroundings. I can only imagine the relief he felt if my own relief was any measure of things finally falling into place for him.
It has been almost nine years, and the changes in Jaime continue to bewilder us. Nine years of peeling away layers and layers of disconnect. I remember a meeting with Camphill staff three or so years ago when we sat around to think ahead about Jaime’s prospects as the high school student he so yearned to be. That evening, Carsten said something I was finally ready to hear: “At Camphill, we see only possibilities and potential, and we revise our expectations constantly, to make sure we account for the progress that the individual has made. We never stop imagining what is possible. There is no ceiling, there is no limit to what the individual can achieve.” This is what researchers call a growth mindset. And yet many of us, in our short-sightedness, out of fear and defeat, would rather make up excuses for our children with unique abilities. As it turns out, it was not Jaime who needed to adjust. He was and is just fine, his own persona, his very self, full of possibilities and potential.
Because we all need examples in order to more fully embrace truths, here is one. As a literacy professional, I can safely say I tried every way I knew to teach Jaime the love for books and the skill of reading. I did pretty well with the former. Jaime loves his books and proudly walks around with them. They are his security blanket heading to bed, and the very first thing he grabs upon waking up. Check. Reading, on the other hand, was not in the plan. Or so I thought, based on my failure of trying everything I knew that worked for others. Along came Stephan, Jaime’s beloved teacher, and mentor and role model. Jaime will stop at nothing to please his teacher. He simply adores him. So, when the time came to test that with reading, Jaime did indeed rise to the expectation. It was last May, with total disbelief and awe, that we received the first testimonial of his triumph over the written word. Ladies, gentlemen, Jaime IS READING. He continues to make progress every day.
It is mind-confounding and life-transforming. It seems so inexplicable, and yet so real. Through hard work, refined skill, and deep knowledge of the individual, Stephan has been able to tap into Jaime’s strengths and bring them to bear. It is what high expectations, motivation, personal drive, and the desire to overcome can do for each and every one of us.
The more I think about it, the more I recognize how much there is for me to learn from this experience. As a community that is intentional in living out the reality of what is possible, Camphill has completely turned Jaime’s life around for the better. At Beaver Run, Jaime is a happy, fulfilled, and able individual. Loved for who he is, encouraged to become his best self, leading the way into a deeper and more meaningful existence. If this is not the utmost wish of a mother for her son, I do not know what is.
Jaime, I am so proud of you and so grateful for the life you live alongside exceptional human beings.
Camphill teachers, house parents, coworkers, staff. Your commitment to Jaime never ceases to inspire us.” – Lucia, Jaime’s Mom