By Cindy Adams


Abby exhibits the traditional characteristics on the autism spectrum – no verbal communication skills, lack of engagement, situational aggression. Educators know that success in teaching requires relationship. The challenge with Abby is clear.

"When Abby came to Bristol Minnick two years ago, she wouldn’t even look you in the face,” explained Laura Padget, Abby’s main teacher. “There were plenty of obstacles in reaching her."

There is power in a steady, consistent pace, especially with students with special needs. Minnick teachers leverage the strength of a quiet, kind demeanor. They hone these skills every week, every day, every hour - sometimes, moving the dial a notch, sometimes not at all. But they are patient.

The 2022 school year concluded in the spring with fun activities for both students and teachers. It was on the Bristol Minnick playground where an extraordinary moment happened.

Abby’s teacher, Laura, was making her way up the playground bars, faltering just a bit. Abby noticed. Abby engaged. With empathy, she walked over to her teacher, laid hands on her so that she could hold her steady and help her climb.

What may seem like an ordinary human response – recognizing need, responding, and connecting – was extraordinary for Abby. And the teachers knew it. In that single moment, the dial jumped, as did teachers' hearts.