Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Assemblies Can Also Really Kill You

I know I mentioned before that Starling is terrified of field trips. Well, she is also terrified of assemblies! The noise and crowds really freak her out. It is nearly impossible to get her to set foot into the multipurpose room for an assembly! 
Today Mrs. Eagle and I learned that there was going to be a Multicultural Arts assembly in the afternoon. We heard that it would be some traditional Mexican dancers. We decided to try our hardest to get Starling to go to the assembly. We started out by talking to each other about how much fun it would be, and how we would love to hear the music at the assembly. Then Mrs. Eagle found a video online, and we all watched a preview of what we thought the assembly would be like. The video Mrs. Eagle found had dancers like this

So we talked about the pretty colors of the women's dresses, and the beautiful dancing. Starling loves bright colors, music, and dancing, so she started to get excited and say she wanted to go! 
At lunch time, another teacher suggested to us that someone take Starling to the multipurpose room before the assembly, so she could walk into the empty room, possibly meet the dancers and see them setting up, and get used to it before all of the other kids came flooding in. So this afternoon, right before the assembly, Mrs. Eagle asked Starling to take a walk with her.
But Starling was on to us! She cried and screamed and ran around the room like a chicken with her head cut off! Mrs. Eagle told her that all she had to do was walk down the hall and peek into the multipurpose room. But by the time Mrs. Eagle got Starling to budge, the multipurpose room was already filled with half the kids in the school. 
Still, for the bribe of a sticker, Starling took a step inside and hovered near the door. She became the greeter, saying hello to every single person who entered the room and giving them compliments. "I like your shirt! I like your glasses! I like your hair!" Starling is a very friendly, appreciative kid! She loves to see different colored clothes, glasses or nail polish, and different hair styles, on people. 
The rest of us got into the multipurpose room and got settled in. The principal came out and announced that the show was about to start. 
Suddenly and without warning, someone started drumming! The drum was super loud. The kind of drumming that you can feel in your heart and your belly. I like it, but some of the kids quickly covered their ears. I could see Starling covering her ears, too. 
And then these guys came out. 
(Well, not these exact guys, but some dancers dressed just like them! I didn't exactly have time to take pics.)

I thought, "Oh, Starling must be peeing in her pants right about now!" Sure enough, Starling ran screaming out of the room, and all the way back to our classroom.

You can't really blame the kid! I know the idea was to sort of startle and overwhelm everyone, to get all of their attention. The dancing and drumming was amazing. The kids who stayed at the assembly were wide-eyed and engaged. But for a small child, or a child or adult with special needs, you can see how these dancers suddenly appearing at the front of the room could be frightening! Starling had no idea what to expect. She certainly wasn't expecting dancers with giant headdresses and costumes! Combined with the very loud drumming, she probably went into a blind panic! I think it would be nice if teachers could get information on exactly what will be seen at a performance, so they could prepare the students who particularly need preparation. We could have shown Starling the pictures of the Aztec dancers in their costumes, and explained what they were, instead of showing her the Mexican dancers. (The Mexican dancers were part of the show, but they came later.)

Anyways, while Starling was back in the classroom sorting colored beads with Mrs. Eagle, the others were enjoying the show! Triller kept eating crumbs and dirt off the floor, but that's a whole 'nother issue. At least, when he wasn't sticking weird things in his mouth, he was  enjoying the show too! Everything went smoothly, until one of the dancers announced that some students would be invited to come up and dance with them. He started by saying everyone whose birthday was in April could come up.

Jay is the only student with a birthday in April. Jay is also a little dude with mild autism, sensitive ears, and a lot of anxiety. The other kids were yelling at Jay, things like, "Get up there!" and Jay just turned as white as a ghost! I hurried over and squatted down by him, to ask him if he wanted to go up and dance. Jay shook his head quickly. I assured him that he didn't have to if he didn't want to, and he relaxed a little. But the other kids kept grabbing at Jay, trying to get him to go up.

Behind us, a student from one of the regular ed classes was getting similar pressure from his classmates. That student ended up getting sort of pulled and dragged up front by his buddies. I think that freaked Jay out even more... he thought he might be dragged up there against his will! As the dancing started, he came and told me he was scared. I said he could sit on the chair by me for a while. However, as he sat there, Jay started saying he didn't feel well. He started rocking back and forth, covering his face, and saying he felt dizzy!

I took him to one of our classroom aides and she said she'd bring Jay to the nurse. 

The assembly ended shortly after that, and the other aide and I herded the remaining six kids back to the classroom. Jay was waiting for us there... the nurse's thermometer was apparently broken, so she hadn't been able to take his temp or anything. I really think it was just anxiety... but since Jay sometimes has seizures, we have to be kind of careful about that kind of thing. Poor Jay was a little on edge for the rest of the day, and ended up visiting the nurse once more before the day was over. Unfortunately her thermometer was still broken. 

The lesson learned? Assemblies are fun for some kids, but stressful for other kids, and even terrifying for a few kids! And for teachers, assemblies are fun, stressful, and terrifying! 

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