Today certainly counts.
Okay. So I'm placed in a classroom for 3rd and 4th graders with moderate to severe intellectual impairments. There are about 10 kids in there, including my little guy, Billy. There is one teacher, one classroom aide, and one other aide who is a 1:1 for another child.
The teacher is a high school teacher during the school year. She does work with high schoolers with special needs, but not anywhere as severe as the needs these ESY kids have. She has never worked in an elementary school. She has never worked with children with this level of intellectual impairments. So she came to school armed with plans for activities that would have been awesome, even perfect, for a group of typically developing elementary school children, or children with mild intellectual disabilities, or children with ADHD, learning disabilities, Aspergers, or just about any other children other than the ones in our classroom. But these kids, who only spoke in one or two word sentences, were ill prepared for activities such as that one ice breaker where you have a list of random traits, such as, "likes strawberry ice cream," and you have to go around the room asking everyone questions in order to match a name to each trait. So basically, the teacher had planned each activity to last about forty-five minutes, and each activity really lasted only about fifteen minutes.
Meanwhile, there was my little Billy.
Billy is a little guy with autism as well as an intellectual impairment. He needs a lot of structure. I don't mean, structure helps him. I mean, the poor little dude was flipping out all day because he had no idea what was going on! The ESY program is not located at Billy's home school, so he was suddenly in a different classroom with different teachers and different kids, and nobody was doing anything that he expected him to do!
In fact, for the first hour, poor Billy just kept on trying to run for the door. He wanted out! He kept pleading, "All done school! Bye bye, school!"
Finally, I got him to sit in my lap on a chair, where I basically physically restrained him for the entire morning. Billy didn't mind being physically restrained... in fact, when i tried to let him sit regularly on my lap, he took my arms and put them back around him. I think the deep pressure was relaxing to him. I sat there with him and talked very quietly to him, rocking him from side to side on my lap, and he calmed down.
(Oh yeah... it turns out he's supposed to have a weighted vest on for the first part of the morning, to help him transition. Except the ESY program does not have the weighted vest. Nobody does. It doesn't exist.)
Eventually I was able to somewhat move him in the general direction of his desk, where I continued to sit and hold him. Any activity the class did, Billy screamed, "No!" Any activity I tried to do with him alone, he screamed, "No!" He refused everything, including snack, and including the Dr. Seuss book his mom had sent in his backpack!
And the worst thing was, although we had a visual schedule, the schedule became useless after the class blew through all of the planned activities within the first hour and a half. We couldn't even take them outside to the playground, because the temperature was 101 and they would have all collapsed. The teacher was great at spontaneously coming up with more activities for the class to do. Which Billy refused, of course. And since the schedule no longer existed, I had no way of even showing him how much time was left. I couldn't tell him, "We'll do math, and then story, and then home." He can't tell time, so telling him, "We'll leave at 11:30 meant nothing to him. All I could say was, "Soon!" So the poor little boy pleaded all day, "Go home?" and all I could say was, "After school, we go home."
Towards the end of the day, Billy did manage to do a few things. I took him for about ten walks. He was very good as we walked. He was calm, and held my hand, and decided which way we should go. (He said, "LEFT!" no matter which direction he wanted to go in.) He didn't try to run away, even when he spotted doors. And whenever we got back to our classroom, Billy walked right back in.
He also liked writing on a small whiteboard. He would write the letter B for Billy, over and over.
And he did accept a Nilla Wafer from the teacher, who was passing them out in desperation because she had really run out of activities. He must have been hungry by then. After he ate it, he asked sweetly, "Cookie again?"
Transitions and down time are obviously going to be very difficult for Billy. I asked the teacher for an individual picture schedule for him, although it won't help on days when the teacher is just making up activities as she goes along! I also asked the teacher to put a stop sign on the door. Not that Billy will necessarily obey traffic signs... but it might help!
Meanwhile, I am exhausted.
It's going to be a fun month!