POWHATAN, Va. -- If you ask Mona Morris about her granddaughter, Grace, she'd say she is a lot like other fourth graders.
"She loves the outdoors,” said Morris. “She loves her friends and being with her dog. She's loving. She woke me up at 4 o'clock this morning with a kiss on my cheek, you know, because she was looking forward to school."
But, Morris said, it wasn't always that way.
Grace has autism and ADHD. She struggled earlier in the year with virtual learning. She was shy and distant. And there were other issues.
"Expressing her feelings has always been difficult for Grace. And Grace has developed a level of trust and openness with this teacher," said Morris.
The teacher is Robin Hagy at Powhatan’s Flat Rock Elementary School.
"For Grace it's really exciting because she has so much, she's boisterous, and she wears her heart on her sleeve,” said Hagy. “You know how she feels all the time and I love that about her."
Hagy is humble, but you can count on Morris to brag on her.
"She accommodated Grace with so many different kinds of activities,” Morris said. “And she has just developed an environment of acceptance and inclusion in her classroom."
Autism is a complex disorder. It includes challenges with social interaction, non-verbal communication and speech difficulties.
Hagy will tell you the trick is meeting kids like Grace where they are and building from there.
"You kind of get into a rhythm together,” described Hagy. “You can almost predict when things happen, how they're going to react, and that helps you build strategies how to help them work through their feelings."
It has worked for Grace.
She is like a lot of other fourth graders. And we love to see her grow. Thanks to a loving grandmother, and a devoted teacher... who is Building Better Minds.