Jax and his JOY in the Classroom
Written and submitted by Lindsay Litaker
I had the absolute honor to serve as a part-time care giver for sweet Jax during the summers of 2019 and 2020. As a special education teacher in Charlotte, I usually try to pick up a job or two during the summer when school is out. I met with Adrienne and Chris just before the school year finished in 2019 and they told me all about their beautiful boy, Jackson. When they spoke of him, their love for him was clear and their admiration of him so extremely evident. Without a doubt, I wanted to be a part of Jackson’s world, so I took the job! Jackson and I went to parks, and enjoyed car rides around the city together. We jumped on trampolines and had TONS of Chic-fil-A milkshakes. On every outing we went on, Jackson’s puffer fish was always in tow. I have beautiful memories of Jax clutching his fish and rubbing its spikes while sitting in the front seat of my car as we drove through Charlotte in the sunshine. I can see him accidentally dropping it behind him into the backseat and me straining to reach for it while we were at a red light. A task I’d gladly take on every time. I can see it sitting in his lap as he sipped his milkshakes on hot summer days with that huge grin on his face. The puffer was always with us. It was easy to see the joy Jackson gained from his puffer fish and I always thought that I should have something like it in my own classroom as a unique sensory input object. When I heard of Jackson’s passing, I joined the rest of his world in feeling such a huge sense of loss. I often thought of how much I would love another car ride or milkshake with him and his puffer fish. Upon seeing the lovely idea of continuing to spread Jax’s joy by placing his puffers everywhere, I knew I needed one for my classroom. It was definitely time! I brought mine to school and there it has stayed ever since. It now provides that same calming, sensory input to several other students with special needs. I think of Jackson every time I catch a glimpse of its yellow spikes sitting upon a desk or in the clutches of my students at various times during the year. One of my students in particular liked to keep the puffer fish at her desk at all times and we often utilized it to support her needs throughout the day. Jackson’s joy continues to spread through the help of so many people, especially his unyieldingly loving parents. It will continue to be evident in my classroom for what I hope to be a very long career. Jax will be always be part of my classroom and part of some of my most treasured memories.