Parent Victory: This Mom of Two Sons with Autism Became a Special Education Teacher

We could all use more good news these days, and what better way to lift each other’s spirits than by sharing our parenting victories, large and small! Whether these wins are personal or on a local, national, or worldwide scale, we want to hear ’em — share your stories with us here

We’re always looking for new ways to help our children better access their education — especially while navigating this new world of distance learning. Today we’re celebrating Leticia Avelar, a single mom in San Diego who was inspired to pursue a career in special education after her sons Jonah and Dez were diagnosed with autism. “Jonah’s first special education teacher guided me through the whole process,” Avelar says. “And I wanted to be that for somebody because I knew how important it was to have somebody in your corner.”

Avelar began her journey in 2016 as a special education teacher’s aide, and has further pursued her teaching career during the coronavirus pandemic. She shared her story with KPBS:

  • This year, while schools moved to distance learning amid COVID-19, Avelar transitioned from a teacher’s aide to a credentialed special education teacher who works with high school students. As stressful as it can be to juggle her roles of mom and teacher, Avelar says her first-hand experience makes her better at both.
  • Avelar is now working towards her Master’s degree in special education.
  • She has persevered through distance learning frustrations familiar to parents of special education students, in addition to frustrations that are unique to her as an educator. She said the first few months of Zoom classes and remote speech therapy services felt especially impossible for her children, but she and her sons are starting to figure out ways to adapt. For example, when Avelar is working with her students over Zoom, she allows Jonah and Dez to play video games or entertain themselves with toys — giving them a break from schoolwork and allowing Avelar to focus on her virtual classroom.
  • Even with her expertise, Avelar shares that her children still encounter challenges in their own distance learning classes, which should remind us to not be so hard on ourselves or our kids in this brand new situation: “[Dez] is having a little bit of a hard time getting back into the school routine of being online and seeing his teachers,” Avelar says. “And it’s still very hard for him.”
  • As she works towards her Master’s degree, Avelar shares wisdom that’s important for all of us to keep in mind. With her teaching job, her graduate studies, her sons’ distance learning coursework, and the rest of her family life, Avelar often feels that she cannot do enough for her sons or for her students — but that’s not a productive or fair way for any of us to think. “I always end the day like, ‘What more could I have done?’” Avelar says. “But then [I remember], ‘What more can I possibly do?’”

For more, watch this video about Leticia Avelar here:


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