Thursday, May 06, 2010

Jennifer and Mary's words

Ethan's teachers gave a great tribute to him on Tuesday.


My name is Jennifer Healey and this is Mary Torpy. We have been Ethan’s teachers for a couple of years and have enjoyed the privilege of sharing in his education and in his life.

Ethan has been a student at Glenallen School in Glen Waverley since 2007. When Ethan first arrived at school, he was a little ball of energetic personality plus. Andrea Robertson taught him in his prep year and speaks fondly of his kindness and his gentleness. A particular friend was Erin and he would talk about his two Erins – one at home and one at school. He had an amazing relationship with the students and staff at Glenallen from Primary to Senior. His caring and loving nature came to the fore with students in wheelchairs and his boisterous energy was displayed when running around with his mates, driving the play cars in Grand Prix style or having light sabre battles. What we saw in this young man was a strong desire to communicate. He was a real people person with a highly developed sense of fun and humour. He always had something to say using words, signs, communication book or his favourite – his Palm top. He was so keen to communicate that he often devised his own signs and gestures. He also had a persistent way of getting information put on to his Palm top so that he could chat with others.

He often entertained the class with his communication device. “Go away”, “I’m not a child” and “shut up” would often be heard. Something I lived to regret was showing him how to say multiple words in one sentence with his Palm top, such as East Link, East Link, East Link, East Link, East Link …….. Jennifer, Mary, Jennifer, Mary, Jennifer, Mary ……….., Pizza, Pizza, Pizza...............

Ethan’s class mates had lots of words and thoughts to describe their friend. These included cheeky, forever entertaining others with his “bottom dance”, and bottom smacks, burping all the time, greeting people with a lovely “back tickle” or “head rub”, Essendon Footy Club, Yarragon Footy Club, sticking his tongue out and wiggling it at everyone and calling all and sundry either a “looser” or “crazy” when they did anything that was remotely funny. In the early years, it was all about Thomas the Tank, but this developed into Ben 10, Star Wars, Ben 10 and Kung Fu Panda. He was always The Crane. Throw in the other interests that all young boys have and Ethan was one of the gang.

Ethan had a skill of wiggling his way into our laps without us noticing he had even left his seat. All of the other students were very accepting of it. Ethan’s signature head rub differed between staff and his friends. The students’ heads were rubbed gently and kindly complete with eye contact and a soothing chat. In contrast, staff had their hair completely and firmly messed up with an accompanying “Ah ha”. In addition to a head rub, a bottom would be smacked. The adults were usually the lucky ones to receive this show of affection.

Ethan’s knowledge and understanding of technology was amazing and when the White Board was in use in classroom time, he was hooked. As long as his reading sessions involved the computer, it was OK. He loved using his PSP and he was enthused by Google Earth and Google Maps. Ethan learnt all the football songs from UTube and loved the footy banter and teasing when your team lost. When we studied Space last year, Ethan became a devotee. His room at home began to look like outer Space. Anything remotely associated with this topic kept his spirits high and engaged.

Transport, Eastlink and Freeways were another love. The way he could tell you the names of all the major freeways in Melbourne and how to get to them! He insisted every freeway and major road from the MS in Sydney to Eastlink in Melbourne was written in his book and recorded on his Palmtop. Ethan told me which roads and freeways I had to take to drive to Phillip Island. When Jo checked on his GPS, he was right!

Ethan gained a lot of pleasure from attending our two class camps. He slept in the “big boys” room and kept up with a very busy and tiring schedule. He devised his own expressions and signs for experiences and events such as the tractor train to Point Nepean, the tunnels and the Ferry to Queenscliff. All around the camp ground “enifa, enifa, enifa” was heard. Ethan was extremely good at twisting others around his little finger to do whatever he wanted. At Point Nepean, there were 100 steps that some of the students were climbing and of course Ethan wanted to go up. So up on my back goes Ethan and we climb. I then had to go back down and collect the wheelchair and drag it up the 100 steps. Ethan was quite pleased with himself.

You had to keep life upbeat and high. He wouldn’t be left out of anything. “No”, I don’t want to use the wheelchair in the P/E session, “No”, I don’t need any oxygen to get me through lunchtime, “No”, I want my wild turn like everyone else on the cars, “No”, I’ve rested long enough on the bean bags!

Ethan had a bottomless treasure trove, but with some definite favourites - his PSP, light sabre, DVD player, footy stuff and Ben 10. These treasures were regular features in his day. The problem was collecting them all at the end of the day!

His was a short life crowded with richness, with positive experiences that come from belonging to an active, loving and balanced family and from his involvement in a nurturing school programme. In his family, Ethan lived life to the fullest – camping, bike riding, bussing to school, school discos, being a member of a wide extended family, birthday parties, weddings – never missing out on anything.

Ethan’s love for his family was enormous. He would only write “love’ on a card if it was for his Mum, Dad, Erin or Adele. Everyone else got “from”. To see his face light up when Jo or Luke came to school or when showing Erin and Adele the racing cars and how to ride them fast (the only speed he knew) reflected the deep feelings he had for his family.
One of the students felt that if the tooth fairy granted us a wish, we could wish for wings
so we could fly to see him. But we can see him in our hearts, and our memories are all ones that make us smile.

We would like to thank you for entrusting Ethan to our care. It was an honour to be a part of his life. He wove his way into all our hearts and the hearts of many others. His presence will be greatly missed. Ethan’s signature was his bottom wiggle. This endearing dance will be held in the memories of many forever. Ethan taught us how to live and love life – Remember Him - Do a bottom dance and smile!

Jennifer and Mary


Sal Murgana said...

Ethan's teachers delivered such a beautiful speech. Ethan certainly did touch the hearts of so many people around him.

Ethan you will truely be missed by many.

Love Sal xxxxx

Green Tea said...

This is the first time i have ever read your blog but I'm glad you are feeling free.
I hope you stay free and remember that life is what you make it <3