Every parent with a special-needs child faces a multitude of challenges. Sharon Anaya knows them all, and more.
Her son, 8-year-old Giovanni, is at the center of an investigation concerning his former Special Ed teacher, Leo Bennett-Cauchon, at Veritas Elementary School. The investigation into alleged “inappropriate touching” of a student by the teacher which was started on the district level and later was passed on to the Manteca Police Department, is still ongoing while Bennett-Cauchon is on paid leave of absence until the investigation is concluded. In the meantime, Anaya has sided with the teacher’s pronouncements of innocence and has even joined a parents’ rally where they demanded that he be reinstated to his job. Several of the parents, like Anaya, have removed their children from Veritas and placed them in alternative programs until the teacher’s job is restored.
With her ongoing effort to help the Bennett-Cauchon investigation to a conciliatory conclusion in favor of the teacher, Anaya has become the poster parent of sorts for those who are dealing with the challenges and struggles of special needs children. For Anaya, the problem began when her son was diagnosed with autism when he was just 2 years old.
Her struggles to juggle parenthood to a special-needs child, maintaining a job, and dealing with myriad challenges while trying to find a program that suited her son would merit a novel-length story chronicling every step of the way. It’s a struggle that took her to Nebraska where her family support network is from, to Livermore Unified School District where they lived prior to coming to San Joaquin County and Manteca, and dealing with a pile of bureaucracy along the way.
Her son has leapfrogged from one county and one MUSD program to another at various locations, and other programs – at Golden West Elementary, Joshua Cowell Elementary, Veritas Elementary, and such after-school programs as Give Every Child a Chance and the City of Manteca’s Kids Zone. In one program, her son was kicked out “due to aggressive behaviors.”
How does she cope with all the parenting, job, and activism challenges she is facing? Anaya, who, for now, has given up continuing her education – she would like to go to law school someday – said she honestly does not know.
“God keeps me together!” she summed it all up, then added, that her son “gives me the strength, the love, compassion, patience, and all that I need.
“I am blessed to have Gio as a child. I will do whatever it takes to make sure his voice is heard. I will forever be as protective as a lion. I will always stand behind and next to him on both sides. He is my world…, and I am very proud of him. I don’t get to hang out with my girlfriends to have wine and/or party. Actually I do not have friends. I cannot even remember when was the last time I had a day to myself. But I enjoy being around my Gio for as long as I can. And if I was given the option of choosing between a ‘normal’ baby and ‘not-so-normal’ baby, I will choose my baby all over again! I do not regret a bit of my life. I am blessed that God chose me as her mother.”