Stories from the heart  

Learning is for Everyone



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Courtesy of Will Schermerhorn


I am the face you see before you:

"Dr. Lois Tannenbaum has been an invaluable resource to me, and other parents of children with disabilities.

She has taught me how to help my child learn using fun and motivating methods.”

Julie Vermette


“Outward appearances can be deceiving” especially when referring to a child with a disability.

Mike was born with a serious heart condition. At the end of kindergarten, his parents who were both physicians were told that he needed surgery. A rare reaction to the anesthesia during surgery caused anoxia resulting in multiple traumas to his brain.

After spending over a year in a rehabilitation hospital, Mike returned to school in a wheelchair not being able to walk, unintelligible speech, and trapped in a body that was in a constant state of involuntary spasms. Both the children and the faculty had to learn how to interact with him. One day a physical therapist was working with him trying to have him move a green block for yes, and a red block for no. She kept repeating the instructions, but he did not move the blocks. She looked up and asked him if he understood the direction. Mike smiled and replied by shaking his head and saying, “No”, then nodding his head and saying “Yes”.

Don’t let appearances fool you!

Mike - don't let appearances fool you.

“I can honestly say that my son Kristopher wouldn't be where he is today if it wasn't for the knowledge, insight and experience of Dr. Tannenbaum.”

Kristina Schwarzbeck

“I wanted to share this little tidbit with you on how effective you are at what you do. At the last seminar you gave us the components of a good essay, the “a, b, c, d, etc.” A few days later, my older son Daniel came home and had to write an essay, but wasn't actually "taught" how to do this. So I pulled out my notes, gave him the steps, and he wrote his essay. He shared with the teacher the steps he used to create his essay. The teacher was impressed and asked him to create a poster board with the steps of writing a good essay. You will now be educating the entire sixth grade class at his school. Now you see how important you are to us!         

**”Update on the essay Daniel wrote using your outline. His essay was submitted to some contest for the state. Go figure! All this from a little seminar given to the DSAHV by you, boy I'm going to be super attentive at the next seminar-what other tricks do you have for us?

As always, thank you for all you do for DSAHV and the Schwarzbeck family!”

Kristina Schwarzbeck



“Children will show you the way in, so that you can show them the way out.” This statement  made by Raun Kaufman is related  to children on the Autism spectrum, but it is so true for all children.

Tammie’s mother approached me one day after observing my special education K-2 classroom daily for a couple of weeks. She told me that she had an older son who was in her words, “severely mentally retarded.” She also had a daughter who was younger and demonstrated the same behaviors as her brother. As such, she had been placed in a classroom that her mother believed to be too low functioning. Her mother asked me if I would accept her if she requested a transfer. I did and the rest as they say is history.

I looked for, and Tammie showed me, her strengths. We built upon those every day until she was decertified. Tammie was later selected by Who’s Who Among American High School Students, and in turn selected me as the teacher who had made the difference. I have attended her Sweet 16 party, high school and college graduations, and hope to dance at her wedding.

Dare to care!


How true it is that children, like all of us, rise to the level of expectation.

“As a mom, I have worked with Dr. Tannenbaum on school district committees of all different kinds: CSE; Team; FBAs; and Shared Decision Making. Also, on the meetings for my daughter where Dr. Tannenbaum served as facilitator and consult teacher. Dr. Tannenbaum has many hats to wear, and does a job that is well-structured with the warmth and involved motivation to make things happen. 

Change is good, and it will change the whole system to flow easier when you have a great, knowledgeable, hands-on, straight forward professional like Dr. Tannenbaum. I would like to thank you Dr. T for all the years of success with Val. She, too, can testify to all the wonderful progress that has come her way.” Val attended general education classes all the way through high school, and graduated with a Regent’s diploma being the first female with Down Syndrome in the county to do so.

Rose Lisi

Believe & you will achieve!


Success is not always measured in accomplishment, but rather through acceptance.

Daniel’s mother registered him for kindergarten without revealing his disability. When he showed up the first day and the school discovered he had Down Syndrome, they tried to “convince” his mother that his needs would be better served in a special education setting. Daniel remained in general education, and his mother agreed to my push-in support services. When Daniel went to JHS everything fell apart. He was placed in a self-contained class without the friends he had made over the years. He was taunted, teased, and terrified. His mother made a decision to skip JHS, and go straight to HS which was possible as he was old enough.

Daniel was extremely sociable, and we were able to connect him with the football coach who had an immediate fondness for him. Daniel became the set-up man for the team equipment. He traveled with them wherever they went, and the team players included him in their circle of friends. The word got around that if you hurt Daniel then you would have to answer to the entire football team.

A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle. - Japanese proverb

Daniel, the team player.
"A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle."

Children who have been abandoned by family will push you away before you walk away from them. They are so desperately hoping you prove them wrong, and care enough to hang on.

Kendal was a young boy in a foster home who pushed back at a world that had pushed him around. Every day he would kick with all his might with his construction boots. He was brought to my class as no one could “handle him”. Each day he kicked, I had him park his shoes at the door because if he was going to use them as weapons, then he had to leave them off in class.

One day in one of his fierce rages of hurt/anger, he was furiously lashing out. I got myself close enough to get around him, pulled his body to me and safely held him while I gave him verbal re-assurances. It was a rough ride, but he finally collapsed into heartbreaking sobs. From that day on, Kendal and I were best buddies. Unfortunately, he was later sent away by his foster family as well.

Ride the waves to the breakers!

Kendal's boots

“It is better to have loved and lost, then not to have loved at all”

Jesse’s family moved to our area when he was in the first grade. He was one of the kids people would say with an “invisible” disability. You could not see it on his face, or hear it in his words, but he could not read at all, and he was so distractible that he had difficulty attending to any task he was given. Jesse’s family had a pot-bellied pig, and he used to share such funny stories about this pig he loved so dearly. Jesse and I had such a close connection that he would ask people to come find me when he was having a tough time.

>Several months later, while riding his bicycle in his neighborhood his distractibility interfered with his judgment, and Jesse was struck by a car and killed. I attended his funeral and was honored to present a eulogy for him, as he had touched my life in an unforgettable way. We had to do crisis intervention with his classmates who were so young to face the death of a friend.

Tiny angel rest your wings – Author Unknown

Jesse, the tiny angel.
Permission has been given to share all stories. Identities have been fictionalized as requested.
Copyright L.I.F.E. Source


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