Tommy sometimes calls his parents Lucky Mommy and Lucky Daddy. Which is exactly how they feel. Very, very lucky 🙂
Tommy’s Lucky Mommy- MaryAnn:
Tommy’s mom, MaryAnn, is a retired elementary school teacher. Her love of children led her to a career where she taught children from Kindergarten to Grade 6, in both English and French Immersion.
From Saskatchewan, MaryAnn’s family moved to Ontario when she was 12. She decided to learn French in University, choosing to live and study in Chicoutimi, Quebec. This experience helps her understand Tommy’s efforts to understand conversations and express himself. MaryAnn also shares Tommy’s strong visual memory, and is a story teller at heart, like Tommy.
MaryAnn was a runner and fitness instructor, until serious health issues which began in Tommy’s childhood prevented her from continuing those activities. These medical issues have been challenging and life changing for her. Despite these setbacks, she has always found joy in life. Changing her diet to gluten free, and most recently Paleo, have been pivotal in her ongoing efforts to improve her health. Her favourite pastimes, which have always sustained her, include swimming, playing piano, and her devoted hobby of documenting Tommy and Paul’s lives by video and photography.
MaryAnn is extremely proud of both her sons and all that they do! She is an optimist, and a creative thinker who has always believed that anything is possible. She supported Paul in his calling to become a field zoologist, seeking meaningful opportunities for him working with animals when the regular school system failed to accommodate his “gifted/learning disabled” learning needs, and later bursting with pride as he left home for his first trip to the Amazon at 18.
In navigating the complex issues surrounding Tommy’s Autism, it was MaryAnn who tirelessly advocated for him with the health and school system, researched and gathered materials and supports for his learning, scribed and drew for him as he dictated hundreds of stories filling shelf after shelf with binders, supported his desire to be on YouTube, facilitated his use of Facebook to bring him closer to hundreds of friends from all around the world.
MaryAnn dreams of helping Tommy write about the story of his life someday. She is grateful for the many blessings raising Tommy and Paul has brought to her life, and how Autism has opened up a whole new world of challenges and joy.
MaryAnn was 7 years old in 1967 when The Jungle Book was released in theatres. It is still her very favorite Disney movie, and the fact that Tommy embraced it as his favorite too, and watched it, perhaps a million times, in his childhood, still makes her smile.
Tommy’s Lucky Daddy- Peter:
Tommy’s dad, Peter, is a high school Biology teacher, who has always taught gifted students, many of whom are mildly on the Autism spectrum. Peter self identifies as being mildly on the spectrum himself, and has a learning disability (dyslexia) in reading and spelling. Peter’s childhood was unique as a result of this dyslexia, and his experience in school was difficult. However, Peter excelled at running and cross country skiing in the beautiful Gatineau Hills where he grew up north of Ottawa. As a teenager, he became an elite athlete, and as a young adult became a member of Canada’s National Nodic Ski team, competing at the world level.
Peter’s love of intense exercise continued throughout his adult years. He became a marathon runner and triathlete. Although he was still a runner himself when Tommy first began running in 2006, Peter soon became challenged by health issues such as hip replacement and arthritis, and his devotion to Tommy’s athletics has become his focus.
From the time his children were born, Peter has been the kind of dad that has always loved spending time with his sons- taking nature walks looking for frogs and salamanders with Paul, going on father-son hiking trips, building tree forts, helping Paul set up an extensive home zoo with every reptile you can imagine; following Tommy on long walks, reading Green Eggs and Ham each Sunday, supporting Tommy through recent years of running, skiing, kayaking, and helping Tommy in his desire to learn to cook! He is proud of his sons and devoted in every way.
Peter’s favorite Disney movie is also The Jungle Book. Perhaps because of his joy in seeing Tommy, and his wife MaryAnn, enjoy it so very much. He likes so many Disney movies he is hard pressed to pick a true favorite. But he loves to see his family happy 🙂