People Who Work With “Special” Kids Are Special, Too

Linda and "Gramme"
It says “Gramme” on Catherine Ann MacLean’s badge at the Plymouth Health and Rehabilitation Care Center – a title she wears proudly.

The mother of six is “Nana” to her own grandchildren and great-grandchild, but as “Gramme” she says she lives for the three hours she spends each weekday as foster grandmother to students at the pediatric nursing home’s day school.

“I just melt when Christina turns her head at the sound of my voice,” says Ann.

Ann knows the “kids” (age 2 to 22+) well, from her 12 years as assistant art teacher and certified nursing assistant at the school for children with severe neurological impairment. After retirement she missed interacting with them, so she returned through the Coastline Elderly Services foster grandparent program.

“Even though the kids are non-verbal, they have personalities,” Ann explained. “You know when they are delighted or uncomfortable. It is so gratifying when they respond to me.”

Mostly, Ann reads books to the kids and works on their educational goals. “They participate as much as they can -- for some, picking their head up off their chest and focusing on the book could be one of their goals,” she said. She also enjoys celebrating holidays with the kids and helping at the school’s summer camp.

Education Director Linda White said she is grateful for Ann’s continued connection to the students, because many people find it difficult to build relationships with individuals who have severe disabilities.

“What people don’t realize is that when you get to know the kids you stop seeing their disabilities,” Linda said. “You just see their smiles.”

Occasionally, potential volunteers or students in high school vocational program come by to explore opportunities at the school, but many don’t return, she said.

“That’s why Gramme is so special.”