Dear Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley,
This letter may never get to you, I understand, but I am still deeply compelled to publicly thank you for your relentless work on behalf of people with disabilities and your most recent victory to end the practice of seclusion and restraint used on students in the classroom. I have met you in person once before at a rally and you were kind and sincere to each person that came up to you with questions and comments. Your courage and conviction have led to the passing of this bill to end the practice of seclusion and restraint that will protect so many vulnerable and often voiceless students and their families and I am truly grateful and proud to be a citizen of this great state.
I am writing to you not only as an advocate, but as a grateful mother of a child with special needs who fell victim to the use of seclusion in her classroom. My husband and I struggled immensely from the very beginning of our parenting journey with our special needs daughter. When we adopted our precious gift at two and half, we were not completely sure what to expect, and things were rocky and lonely and agonizing from the start. We knew something was wrong but we had no idea what to do except lean hard on each other and press even harder into God. I’ll never forget the day her and I made the first of many two and a half hour drives down to the neuro psych department at the University of Michigan. I drove home white knuckled and terrified because she had been diagnosed with a mental illness and learning delays. From that day our whole world opened up into a new normal that I have grown to love. Yes, my husband and I were shattered and afraid, but we were also resolute and committed. We learned to stop handing oars to people who didn’t want to row and we clung to those who stood by us through every step. It was during this time that I began to realize that our daughter was a special gift to my husband and I for so many reasons. She taught us how to be patient and humble, but also how to be courageous and resilient. She taught us to be unashamed of our struggle and open to differences in others. She taught us how to love sacrificially and she helped us to understand God’s heart for the broken. If we are willing to step back and learn from children that are different, or dare I even say, children that seem to be difficult, we can learn a great deal about the beauty in humanity.
We have kept our daughter very close to us as we learned how to protect and nurture a child with mental illness because it is so very misunderstood, and we have only recently begun to trust others with her care. She began school this year and fell victim to the use of seclusion and restraint in her classroom. I have always been strongly against this practice, but was able to see firsthand how antagonizing and humiliating it was for another human being to be treated in this way. She was held in seclusion almost every day of her first experience in a public school setting until we were able to transfer her after four weeks. When we first found out about the amount of time she was held in seclusion we were heartbroken. It was literally as if we were sucker punched so hard that our hearts ripped right out of our chests. All we could do at the time was pray, but little did we know that the answer to our prayer would come so swiftly and powerfully. Little did we know that the answer to our prayer would come from the Lieutenant Governor of our state who would courageously and relentlessly fight for our daughter whom you have never met and so many other children who felt like they had no voice. Thank you for using your influence on behalf of the most vulnerable and for speaking up for people with special needs. You are a true hero to us Mr. Lieutenant Governor and our family is forever grateful to you for your service to the special citizens of the great state of Michigan. May God bless you and shine His favor upon you and your lovely family.