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Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Motley Crew

My job never ceases to surprise me. I have collected quite an assortment of varied souls. I know I don't speak very much of my job mainly because it is difficult to put into words what it is really like working with 16-20 special needs children on a daily basis (varied special needs). I will do my best to give it some form of words.

I have collected quite the little crew over the last four months. Of course, for confidentiality sake, I cannot mention any names. About half of my classes are children on the autism spectrum. It is the number one common myth about my job is that I work only with children with autism. Not true. Some students attending have communication disorders, other health impairments, adhd, but most are just classified under developmental delay, because the law doesn't require an identified disability until they are age 8. Did I mention I have all boys and one girl for both my classes? Yes, all boys. I have been praying, hoping and pleading with the MDT (multi-disciplinary team) for another girl. Last week my wish was granted. They came down to my room and announced that a new student "a girl" would be coming after the break. An extremely medically fragile child that has a brain disease that is progressive and will eventually take her life. How do you deal with that? How do you fall in love with this little person knowing what is going to happen? Why was I chosen for this (there are five other teachers)?

Before special education my students walked in lines, used the bathroom by themselves and could read. Now, I walk down the hall in one massive clump as my students are ready to push each other to hold my hand. It is not uncommon for me to be holding hands with three students while a fourth is clinging to my leg as we walk down to the gym all while singing, "we are walking, we are walking, to the gym, to the gym. "so-in-so" is the leader, so-in-so is the leader to the gym, to the gym." On the way down the hall, I desperately try and grab the hand of a little sweet boy who is fascinated with the bathrooms and the water that spins when you flush the toilets. For some reason he thinks the girls bathroom is way more interesting than the boys. I reach for him to intercept a girls bathroom field trip, while another highly-energetic boy is screeching at the top of his lungs because he has discovered or remembered that there is an echo in the hallway. I try and calm him down, while my little escape artist lets go of my hand and sprints down the hall while I yell behind me for one of my aides to grab "so-in-so they are on the loose, AGAIN." We laugh as we pass each other. I get excited about certain things that would seem weird to an outsider. For example, when one of my guys on the spectrum ate spaghetti for the first time without spitting it or flinging it across the classroom. Or when a non-verbal student learns to communicate through picture exchange. I rejoice when we make it through a day without bodily fluids presenting themselves or being bit or hit or pinched or kicked. Many would not attempt what I do. But, there are some of us that love this weird job with all the paperwork. I love to watch them progress to grow and adjust. That is merely a snapshot of one aspect of my day, but it gives you a glimpse.

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