Friday, July 27, 2012

Is The Life Of An Autistic Person Worth Saving?

Hi everyone! This is a call to arms! Nikki at Dysfunctional Dose  posted a story about a young man named Paul. 23-year-old Paul does not, and never has, drink or smoke. He loves, and is loved by, his family, which includes his mother, a sister, and two little nephews, among others. He enjoys creative writing, and has written a preteen novel called Isaac The Runner. Paul has a serious heart condition, and if he does not get a heart transplant, his life will be in danger. 

However, Paul was recently denied a placement on the heart transplant list. Why? Because Paul has autism. 

Most people who have children with special needs will not hesitate to say that they are their child's biggest advocate. This is true for Paul's mother. She is ready to do anything she needs to do to get her boy onto that heart transplant list! One thing she's done is create a petition on She plans to send it to the heart transplant committee that denied her son, as well as her state officials, the senate, the House of Representatives, and even the US President. 

If you would take a minute to sign the petition, it would mean a ton to Paul and his family! 

Also, you might want to check out Paul's book! I know this blog is read by some teachers, and you might consider incorporating this book into a creative writing unit! Reading it and learning that it was written by someone with autism may raise their confidence and inspire them to try their own hand at writing!

Thanks, everyone! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Today was the last day of ESY! It was not a regular day though. They set up a little carnival for the kids with music, games, chalk paint, tattoos, and one of those jumpy house thingies. The kids' parents were also allowed to come and spend the morning with their children if they wanted to. 

Billy's mother had told me that she was coming. Meanwhile, Billy was having a rough morning. First of all, he wasn't feeling well... he was sneezing a lot, his eyes were all swollen, and he kept putting his hand on his forehead like he had a headache. Second of all, he could tell it was a weird day and the routine was totally off. He kept wanting to leave the room, and he kept asking me for "squeezies." (Sometimes when Billy was really hyper and having a hard time, I would kind of hold him in front of me and sway him back and forth, singing "Squeezies! Squeezies!" It seems to provide some sensory relief for him.) He has come to realize that squeezies make him feel better, and will request them when he's upset once in a while... but this morning he practically wanted nonstop squeezies! He kept telling me, "One more time? One more time?"

When it was time to go out for the games and stuff, we tried to bring Billy, but he would have none of that. He screamed outside and tried to run into the parking lot to get away from us, crying, "No outside!" By that point I figured it would be safer to take him back to the class, at least until his mom got there. There was no sense in forcing someone to attend a carnival!

So we went back to the classroom, where Billy happily scribbled on the whiteboard and rearranged the calendar numbers into a nonsensical order. Billy's mom didn't come and didn't come and didn't come. 

Then a guy walked into the classroom. I didn't know him, but he had a school employee badge. He asked, "Are you guys going out, or coming in, or what?"

I explained, "He was having a hard time outside, so we're waiting for his mom to get there. Maybe he'll try it out then."

The guy walked up to Billy, extended his hand, and said, "Hi, I'm Mr. Jones. And you are?"

Billy slapped him five and babbled something about wanting to put coffee in the microwave. 

Mr. Jones asked, "Check schedule, Billy! Time to go outside!"

"No outside!" Billy yelled. 

"Time to go outside! Come on!" said Mr. Jones. 

"No outside!" Billy yelled. 

This went on for a while, with me interrupting to try again to explain that Billy couldn't deal with "outside" right now and that it was probably safer to let him stay in the classroom, at least until his mom came and could help keep him from running off. 

Finally the guy asked me, "Who is your teacher?"

I assumed he meant the teacher I was working with, and I told him. The guy walked out of the room, muttering to himself. 

Eventually Billy's mom did show up, with her four younger children in tow. (I never knew Billy had siblings, although a few times when I asked him he told me he had a brother named Danny, and he sometimes used to say, "D for Danny!" while playing on

Billy's mom was very friendly, and thanked me profusely for looking after Billy all summer. She even asked me if I would consider applying for a job as an aide at Billy's school! (I told her I was hoping to get a teaching job, but you never know.) She said she had guessed that Billy wouldn't enjoy the carnival, and asked if she could take him home early. So I hugged Billy goodbye. After he left, the classroom felt so lonely! I couldn't bear to look at the scribbles Billy had drawn on the whiteboard just moments earlier!

After the rest of the class, and several of the other children's parents, came back into the room, I told the teacher what had happened with Mr. Jones. I asked her if she knew who he was. She told me he was the superintendent of the school district! Uh... I am not sure what to say about that. 

For weeks, I have thought that when the ESY program ended I would feel nothing but relief and happiness. I imagined myself running from the school, yelling, "Good riddance!" But as I watched the kids leave, one by one, I actually felt sad. It was a rough summer. I know I talked before about feeling that the program wasn't really helpful for Billy, and that I thought the aides were giving me dirty looks because I couldn't get Billy to do all the things the other students were doing. But the teachers, the other aides, and I really bonded by the end. It may have been a trauma bond, but it was a bond. 

The teacher told me that Billy's mother had spoken to her, saying that she thought I had helped Billy so much during ESY. His mother apparently told the teacher that she had expected weekly or even daily phone calls about Billy's behavior, and maybe demands that she pick him up early. But she said Billy came home very happy each day after school. (Which is surprising to me, seeing as how he asked to go home all day long!) 

The teacher also told me that one of the school social workers, who had helped out a little bit in our classroom, had mentioned to her that he thought I did a great job with Billy. The teacher added that this social worker rarely complimented others, so if he said I did a great job, he must have really been impressed!

In fact, I think the only person who would disagree with this is the really judgemental gym teacher.  Throughout ESY, she continued to snatch Billy away from me on PE days and discipline him, while not even looking at me. Last week, at the end of gym, instead of handing him off to me as the others lined up, she actually took him and walked him to the classroom herself, five minutes ahead of the end of class. She didn't even say anything to me about it, just walked right past me with Billy in tow. Then, when the rest of us got to class, she actually stayed for ten more minutes just to continue disciplining him. I felt so awkward, even though the other aides whispered to me, "Just enjoy the break!"

Oh well. You can't win 'em all. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This Awkward Moment Brought To You By

It is reading time at the ESY program. Most of the students are sitting on the carpet in the front of the room, working on an activity where you dig through a box of rice to find a card with a sight word on it. Most of the students are engaged and interested. But not Billy. And not Gia.

I haven't talked much about the other kids in the ESY class, so far. The truth is, I barely interact with the rest of them, because I usually have my hands full, literally, with Billy! But there's this one little kid named Gia, a cute-as-a-button 3rd grade kleptomaniac, who can usually be found running up and down the halls of the school with a piece of folded up construction paper in her hand, declaring that she's with the FBI. 

Today Billy is having a hard time. He'll do a little work with me, especially if it involves cut-and-paste so he can eat some of the paste while he thinks I'm not looking. But he wants nothing to do with sitting in a group, and he's refused to go to every group activity so far today, rendering him unable to earn computer time or cell phone time. Billy wants to go home. So, taking matters into his own hands, he gets up and runs towards the door. 

I catch Billy just as he gets the door open. It is a battle of wills, with him refusing to shut the door, and me refusing to let him run out. He is strong, and he's able to hold the door open. And that's when Gia darts out. One of the aides runs after her. 

Gia turns right and runs down the hallway. The aide follows her. Billy says, "Walk please," and points towards the left. I try to let him take a walk when he actually uses the word, and he always walks right back into the room after a walk, so this is probably the best way to get him back into the class. I take Billy's hand and we go down the hallway. The hallway is a big square. We hang a right, and then another right. And, low and behold, there is Gia, jogging towards us with her FBI badge outstretched in front of her. The aide follows, telling Gia, "We need to go back to class."

The hallway is narrow, so I stick out my free arm to block Gia from running past us. I expect her to try to bust through my arm, Red Rover style. But instead, she takes my free hand in her tiny one, and says something undecipherable about the FBI. (Gia also has a speech impairment, so it can be hard to understand what she's saying.) She walks with me and Billy back to the classroom, with the aide at our heels. I tell Gia and Billy, "We need to stay in our classroom. We need to stay safe." I doubt Gia cares, and I doubt Billy is listening, but maybe it will seep into their subconsciousnesses. 

As we enter the classroom, and Gia proceeds to climb onto the top of a file cabinet, the aide tells me, "I met my husband on!" 

"Oh, that's cool!" I reply, peeling Gia off the file cabinet. "I know a few people who met that way." I wait for her to add more to the story, perhaps something that relates to Billy and Gia, but she just smiles. 

"Maybe you should give that a try," says the aide. "You never know who you might find on there! Because you'd make such a great mother!" Then she walks away, leaving me feeling sort of bewildered.

(Also, just so you know, Billy shortly thereafter pulled his diaper out through the leg of his shorts, and then peed in his pants, soaking his pants, his shirt, and the big office chair that spins around, which he was spinning around in at the time. I basically had to strip him down and give him a sponge bath with baby wipes, and then stuff him into a way-too-small T-shirt and shorts set that I borrowed from the nurse's office. TWO MORE DAYS!)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Duck Overboard!

Hi everyone! Today our ESY program had a field trip to a small park district zoo in our area. It is a very nice little zoo with a mixture of local wild animals that can no longer live independently, such as foxes, deer, skunks, and coyotes, some farm animals like horses, cows and sheep, and a few more exotic animals like llamas. There is also a bunch of duck ponds with all different breeds of ducks, some that are owned by the zoo and some that just show up on their own. (The duck pond has always been one of my favorite parts, because I love ducks. During the spring and summer, if you get there in the morning, you can buy special duck food and help feed the ducks!) 

We've been telling the kids all week about our field trip, and they were all excited. Even Billy seemed excited. On the bus ride there, he was such a happy little guy, singing and talking to himself, saying things like, "Where we going? Look, pretty trees! Red light! Stop! Green light... go! Turn! Where we going?" We left Kitty at school, but he brought another one of his favorite transitional items, a squeezy duck, and he was happy to talk to it and play with it, putting it on his head and saying, "Where is ducky? On Billy's head!"

But when we got there, he wasn't so happy. I had to pretty much carry him off the bus!

He did cheer up when he saw the duck pond! Unfortunately, he thought it was a swimming pool. He kept saying, "Swimming pool! Smell it! Swimming pool!" Then he started trying to climb the small fence that separated the path from the duck pond. He said, "Billy swimming pool!"

"No, Billy, it is only for ducks," I told him. 

Before I could realize what I had just said, Billy got a big smile on his face, and shouted, "Ducky swimming pool!"

"No, no ducky swimming pool!" I protested.

But it was too late. The duck sailed over the fence,  and landed in the middle of the duck pond, right next to a very startled real duck! 

Billy laughed like crazy at the sight of his little duck floating in the pond. Meanwhile, I wasn't about to lose Ducky! I jumped over the fence and was just about to wade into the pond. The other staff members, all of the kids, and some random zoo visitors, were all staring at me, while Billy laughed like a mad scientist. 

Luckily, a zoo employee came and fished the toy duck out of the pond with a net, so I didn't end up having to dive into the slimy pond. Billy wanted his duck back right away, but it looked so gross, I told him ducky was going to have to go home and take a bath first! 

It was definitely one of the funnier moments of the summer. And only four more days left!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

NOW You Tell Me!

Okay. So you know things have been rough with Billy, the little guy I am working as an aide with in the ESY program. He has good moments and bad moments. A bad moment may be him screaming and running out of the classroom, and me having to catch him and wrangle him back into the room. A good day may mean that he sits down for fifteen minutes during Calendar and is able to tell the teacher what month it is. But pretty much every moment is crazy and stressful for all of us! Not to mention that some of the other kids also have behavioral issues... although their issues are more from stubbornness than anything else. Like climbing onto the table and yelling, "Nana nana boo boo!" like one little, cute-as-a-button girl does regularly. 

Last Wednesday we had PE for the first time. Billy hated it, ran out of the gym, and refused to go in. I ended up taking him back to the classroom, but not allowing him to do any of his preferred activities, because I didn't want him to think he'd get to use the computer just by refusing to do work!

This time we had PE. I was doubtful it would go well, since Billy was already having a rough time. This time there were two gym teachers, one of whom seemed to know Billy from his regular school. As I was struggling to get Billy to do one section of the obstacle course that was set up, and thinking it would be successful if he stayed for ten minutes, the aide walked up and totally took over. She just grabbed Billy and started telling him, "Work, Brandon!" She was a lot bigger than me so she was able to wrangle him more easily. She kept showing him some sort of visual schedule, and he was actually doing the things she demanded that he do. 

My feelings were kind of hurt. I kind of felt like the gym teacher must have though I was incompetent because I couldn't get Billy to go around the obstacle course. She didn't even look at me or talk to me at all, but just marched over and snatched Billy from me. She even took his stuffed kitty (which I let him carry with him as a sort of transitional object/stimmy thingie) and said, "No toys in gym!" I just stood there, feeling awkward and holding the bedraggled kitty, while she and Billy went around the gym.

Finally gym was over. The gym teacher came over and showed me the visual schedule she was using. It was basically a strip of laminated paper, with velcro down the middle, and the number 5,4,3,2, and 1 stuck to it. The gym teacher said, "Why don't you just keep this?" She explained that, when you ask Billy to do a task, he has to do it, in order to take one of the numbers off the list. She told me that this was what the teachers used with Billy during the school year. "He is cuckoo for numbers! He'll do anything for them!" she said. 

Dude. There are six days left of ESY. Six. For nearly a month I have been struggling to get Billy to do the simplest things. I made visual schedules, work-work-work-break charts, and visual prompts, let him work for computer time and cell phone time, took him for walks when he was acting too squirrely,   etc. All of it worked a tiny bit, but not much. If someone could have just told me about the system the teachers had already been using with Billy for the past three years, the system that he was used to and responded to, think about how  much easier this whole thing would have been! Billy would have felt more comfortable from the start if he'd seen the system he already understood. But all I was told about him was his age, diagnosis, and IEP goals. 

Oh well. Six more days. 

In other news, I have discovered that Billy loves glue, and will usually do any work involving it. So I make worksheets and projects based on his IEP goals, that require him to glue things onto other things. I even turn the teacher's regular worksheets into cut-and-paste activities to adapt them for Billy! He does tend to eat quite a bit of the glue in the process. (Don't worry, it's nontoxic!) 

Yesterday the teacher let the kids play with shaving cream during free time. She just squirted a little bit of shaving cream on each of their desks. It's fun, novel, doesn't stain, and is super-easy to clean up! It even leaves the desks cleaner than they were in the beginning! Billy was watching some of the other kids play with the shaving cream. I asked him, "Do you want to try that?" and Billy enthusiastically replied, "YES!"

I took him to his desk, and the teacher sprayed some shaving cream on the desk. Billy stuck his hands into it. He giggled and said, "Shaving cream!" Then he took a big handful and stuck it in his mouth!

The teacher assured me that the shaving cream was nontoxic too, but it still grossed me out. I know some people will tell me, "Maybe he thought it was whipped cream!" But he still kept trying to eat it, even after that full mouthful, so I think he must have realized it wasn't whipped cream and just liked it anyways. 


Six more days. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

More Fun Adventures With Billy

Hi everyone! I am so glad this week is over! I literally came home and collapsed on the couch, and slept for two hours before I even ate lunch!
The week went a little better for Billy.  Billy is always crying that he wants to go home and see a favorite stuffed animal, a stuffed cat he calls "Baby Kitty." All day he says, "Go home, see Baby Kitty?" Last Friday, while I was at Wal-Mart, I came upon a small stuffed cat. It was meant for infants, and was very soft, with a rattle inside. I didn't find it in the baby aisle, though. It was in the office supply section, presenting itself to me like some sort of miracle! I bought it, and brought it to school for Billy on Monday. He loved it right away. He got a big smile on his face and said, "Kitty!" and has been carrying it with him, ever since, like a transitional object. Holding Kitty, he has been able to spend more time sitting in group activities and working on school work. 

In fact, Monday and Tuesday were awesome! On those days, Billy attended and participated in all of the group activities, worked with me on reading and math, and played happily on the playground. (The week before, you might remember, he spent playground time screaming, trying to run for the parking lot, and throwing his cellphone on the ground.) (Not his cellphone... the one that I gave him to play with during breaks!) He loved playing on the slide and sending Kitty down the slide!

Wednesday and Thursday were not as great. On Wednesday, we had PE, and it turned out that Billy hated it. He cried the whole time and tried to run out of the room. I eventually just took him out and walked around the school with him for the rest of PE time. (Walking is physical activity, right? And probably better for him than sitting on the gymnasium floor and hollering?) On Thursday, he didn't want to do any school work or sit in any groups, and I had to stop him from running out of the classroom about ten times. 

And then today... Friday the 13th... Billy was in even rarer form! He could not sit in group. When I held him on my lap, he squirmed, laughed loudly, yelled random words, slapped me, and kept knocking the schedule off of the white board. (It is balanced precariously on the sill of the whiteboard, and falls down about eighty times per day, sometimes onto the head of a student!) I got him to do some math with me, by having him paste numbers onto a sheet of paper in the correct order... but he mostly did it because he was also eating the paste whenever he thought I wasn't watching! 

The school's playground actually consists of three separate play areas, each about ten yards away from each other. Our class usually is only allowed to play on the nearest playground, but I sometimes take Billy to the furthest playground because there is a swing, which calms him. During playground time today, Billy took off running towards the furthest playground. I followed, but did not chase him, because if you chase Billy he thinks it is a game and will just run even faster to get away. However, when Billy passed up the furthest playground, I did start to run! He was headed out towards an open field that is just beyond the school yard. I am a fast runner and easily caught up with him. But the hard part was getting him back up to the regular playground! Remember, Billy is big for his age, and I am kind of a weakling. 

I did my best to restrain Billy while also walking with him back towards the school. Of course he did what every little kid does when an adult is trying to make them walked... he turned his legs into Jello and fell to the ground! I was hoping to get the attention of the teacher or one of the aides, so they'd come help me walk Billy back. But nobody saw us. 

When Billy grabbed my arm and pinch-scratched it with all his might, I got an extra surge of adrenaline! 

The weird thing about me is I barely ever raise my voice at students, especially with kids like Billy who would probably just get more upset. And I didn't raise my voice this time... but I did say, probably more firmly than I've ever spoken to him, "No! That is not nice!" Then I took him by the hand and just towed him back to the school. Billy let me pull him... he was probably a little startled and subdued when I snapped at him. We got back to the regular playground, where nobody had noticed us missing. Billy was much calmer and went back to playing on the slide. 

Later, during snack time, Billy picked up the garbage can and threw it, and laughed hysterically as all the garbage fell out.  I told him we don't do that, and I picked up the garbage and threw it away in a different can, so the small can was empty. Billy picked it up again and threw it across the room! This time I took away his cellphone, and told him he had to sit in his chair for the rest of snack time, which would be about five more minutes. I sat on the table to "guard" him, but I did not look at him or talk to him. Since we don't have any sort of Time Out or Cooling Off Spot or whatever, this was all I could really think of to get the message to him. I think he got it, because he sat there, but kept asking me, "Telephone now? Computer now? Telephone? Goodbye song?" while I ignored him .

That was pretty much our day... and I'm chalking it up to the fact that this was a long week! It was our first full week, because last week we had Wednesday off for the Fourth Of July, and the week before that was a half week. Billy wasn't used to being in summer school for more than two days at a stretch, and maybe his patience and good behavior wore out way back on Tuesday. I'm hoping Monday will be better!

In answer to some of your comments...
I don't really have any contact with Billy's planning team because they are all on summer vacation and unreachable. This summer school program is a little weird because they just take the special ed kids from multiple districts and put them in a random school, with random staff members, and all we get is a copy of their IEP and maybe a note from their regular teacher. Billy is only 8 and he doesn't seem to want to injure me... I think he just gets frustrated and wants to SQUEEZE something, and I am the closest person handy. He does not touch other staff members or students in any way ... in fact he barely notices they're there. 

I still don't have a weighted vest or many other materials for Billy. I brought him the celphone and stuffed duck on my own, but I don't think I can afford a weighted vest! 

The aides have gotten a little better... or maybe I've just gotten better at ignoring them. They still send me dirty looks when Billy is taking more breaks than other kids, when he is being noisy, when he's doing separate work from the others, etc. But I don't really care. I treat them with respect and I am always friendly, and that is about all I can do! 

That's all for now, everyone! Thanks for listening! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hey, Look At My New Award!

Guess what, everyone? I got my second blogging award! Traci Bender, from a new blog called The Bender Bunch (she's a special education teacher!!!) gave me the Lovely Blog Award!
The rules for this award are:
1. Follow the person who gave you the award
2. Link back to the person who gave you the award.
3. Pass the award on to 15 new bloggers. 

And here are my nominations!

1. Mrs. P from THAT'S SO SECOND GRADE! Mrs. P student taught during the same semester that I did. She just accepted a position in a second grade classroom, and is busy getting ready for this fall! (I'm totally jealous!)

2. Mrs. H from THE TEACHING BLOG. Mrs. H is just getting ready to move to a new town, where she will begin her own student teaching this fall. Having been a student teacher myself this past spring, I am excited to meet another student teacher!

3. Nancy from JOY OF LIFE. Nancy is an intervention specialist who works with kindergartners, and has a special place in her heart for the children with the most behavioral issues. After reading some of my recent posts about Billy, Nancy commented and later emailed me with sympathy and advice. Always appreciated! :D 

4. Sara from RAMBLINGS FROM A DEAF ED TEACHER'S MIND. Like the title implies, Sara works with children who are deaf. She is also deaf herself, which I think puts her in a great position to be a role model for the children in her classes! 

5. Another Sara, from MISS V'S BUSY BEES. She's a young lady who just got her degree in early childhood education. She has a lot of enthusiasm for her family and life in general! 

6. Sharon, from TEACHING WITH SIGHT, is a kindergarten teacher who really loves to use multisensory activities with her little students. Maybe part of this is because Sharon is blind herself, so she knows how important all of the other senses are to learning! 

7. Christi at MS. FULTZ'S CORNER is a third grade teacher who is also licensed as a reading specialist. Reading and writing are her favorite subjects to teach! 

8. Tara from FOURTH GRADE FROLICS is, obviously, a fourth grade teacher. I started following her blog back when I was doing field work, after I discovered her post on letter puddles. I love making those, and the letter puddles became part of a very popular reading game during my student teaching! Tara often posts very creative and fun ideas. 

9. Here's a blog I stumbled upon recently, and it kinda blew me away. I don't know if most people have heard of PANDAS, or Pediatric Autoimmune Illness Associated With Streptococci. I hadn't! I am still not sure exactly what it is, but I have learned from Aimee at THE PANDAS EFFECT that it is a type of autoimmune illness that can cause a child to have behaviors similar to children with OCD, ADHD, Tourettes, etc. Aimee writes all about every day life with her three children, two of whom have PANDAS. I think everyone who works with kids should read this, so we know what to watch for.

I wanted to add a few Teach For America blogs. I've considered joining Teach For America, but I don't really want to move far away from my family at this point. I do admire these young kids for joining up with Teach For America! They may not be able to participate in the blog award because of their weird blogging platform... but we'll see! Many of these guys are just beginning their first weeks of school, which are generally summer school programs. 

10. Ms. M from TEACH-LAUGH-LOVE teaches high school math. (I could never do that... definitely my worst subject! She's just begun, and has blogged about what it feels like to be calling parents to introduce herself as a teacher, when she doesn't quite feel like a full-fledged adult yet herself!

11. Mary Catherine, from B IS FOR 'BAMA, teaches primary school aged children in Alabama. She has blogged about the frustrations of having been trained and educated on what is best for children, and then watching those things not necessarily happening in the school she's posted at. For instance, children must spend most of the day in silence, including a silent lunch that lasts for only ten minutes. Torturous! 

Besides following teacher blogs, I like to follow some blogs of parents who have children with special needs. I think it can be great to read about life from the point of view of parents. You realize that just about all parents (but sadly, not all... although the parents who aren't probably don't have blogs) love their children with all their heart, and are truly dedicated to giving their children the best life possible. In the classroom we may see some children as being really challenging and needing a lot of help... but at home, the parents see those children as their precious, beloved  babies. (Even if you don't teach special education, you will probably encounter children with special needs at some point in your career!)

12. Here's a blog I stumbled upon recently, and it kinda blew me away. I don't know if most people have heard of PANDAS, or Pediatric Autoimmune Illness Associated With Streptococci. I hadn't! I am still not sure exactly what it is, but I have learned from Aimee at THE PANDAS EFFECT that it is a type of autoimmune illness that can cause a child to have behaviors similar to children with OCD, ADHD, Tourettes, etc. Aimee writes all about every day life with her three children, two of whom have PANDAS. I think everyone who works with kids should read this, so we know what to watch for.

13. Laura, from BELLA SPERANZA, is the mother of several children, including a teenage daughter who has ADHD and apraxia. 

14. Marsupial Mama from AUTISM ROCKS has a lively family consisting of herself and her husband, their two small children, and lots of pets! (That's my favorite kind of family!) Her older child has autism.

15. Lynsey from LYNSEY THE MOTHER DUCK is a British mother with two children, one of whom has cerebral palsy. She blogs about life in general, but has a special page for the blog entries that involve cerebral palsy.  

16. Nikki, over at DYSFUNCTIONAL DOSE, blogs about life with her three children between the ages of 10 and 16, two of whom have different special needs. She has a great sense of humor, and definitely speaks her mind! I love reading about her views on parenting, and the funny things her kids say! 

Wait, how did I get 16? I spent about 3 days working on this post, and I guess I lost count. The 16th one is a good one, so I can't delete it from my list! That gives you all one more blog to read. 

And now I'm done! Congratulations, everyone! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Special Education Can Be Painful!

The more comfortable Billy gets at school, the more "good" moments he has. For instance, today he participated at Calendar by putting his name up on the attendance chart, and saying the date with the others. He "wrote" in his journal by pointing to pictures for me to cut out, and then pasting them on a page, he sat with the others for most of speech therapy and answered the questions the therapist asked him, and he sat with us before reading and read some site words that the teacher showed him. (He still wore his backpack all day, and kept on snatching the "HOME" symbol from the schedule, though.)
However, the more comfortable he gets, the more painful his "bad" moments get. 
By painful, I mean painful for me. Billy likes to pinch when he's angry. Apparently he saves this for those he knows and loves. Before, all he would do is slap me, which didn't hurt, and he would stop when I told him, "Quiet hands, please." I miss those days!
This is what happened yesterday when I tried to stop Billy from knocking everything off the top of a file cabinet because he didn't want to do math. 

And this is what happened today when I told him it wasn't time for a computer break yet! 

That boy pinches hard! Its actually like an Indian burn, where he grabs your arm and twists your skin. He's strong, too, for an 8-year-old. He's about chest-height to me, and he's husky.
When my dad saw, he looked alarmed and said, "You should quit that job." When my mom saw, she said, "Did you tell the principal about this?" They can't imagine working somewhere where people pinch you! I tried to explain to them that this is actually pretty common. I haven't worked with children who pinch this hard since back in the days when I worked with preschoolers with Reactive Attachment Disorder... they would also spit in your face and throw chairs at your head... but I've known plenty of other people who work with kids whose arms are always bruised up. 1:1 aides seem to get it the worst! 
Anyway, I'm kinda proud of my bruises. They're like battle scars.
I'm just glad he doesn't bite! (Knock on wood!)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Please Excuse My Friend For Throwing A Phone At Your Head!

Each day with Billy seems to be getting a little better. The cellphone thing is really working, and he will sometimes even hand it to me, when it's time to get back to work, instead of making me wrestle it out of his hands!

Funny story about the phone though. Billy hates going to the playground. He wants nothing to do with it and thinks it's the stupidest idea in the world. Unfortunately, the whole rest of the class feels the opposite way, so we have to endure a playground break each day when it's not too hot. The last two times, Billy spent playground time yelling, "Playground finished! Goodbye, playground!" while I held him back to keep him from running off towards the parking lot. (And no, I can't just let him skip playground and let him spend the time in the classroom, which would make sense, because apparently aides can never be left alone with children.)

So today I told Billy he could bring the cellphone outside with him. I thought it would keep him occupied and help him stay calm.

It didn't seem to make a difference. As soon as we got outside, the first thing Billy did was try to make a run for the parking lot, looking for the buses so he could jump on one and get home!

 I think the best thing to do when Billy gets upset is just to get super, super calm yourself, and talk in a very quiet, even voice. So there I am, hanging onto Billy, while he is hollering and scratching, slapping and pinching my legs, and I'm gently cooing, "Quiet hands, please." (He can reach my legs in order to slap me, even when I'm holding him, because he's tall for an eight-year-old, and I'm pretty short.) 
There were these other teachers and aides out there with some highschoolers, sitting on the benches and taking a break. They were all watching the entertaining scene happening in front of them.

Finally, Billy seemed to calm down. I was kind of rocking him, and he was muttering something like "Seatbelt, seatbelt, seatbelt..." Then he asked sweetly, "Phone, please?" 

Thank goodness! Now Billy would relax and play with his phone, and I could take a breath! I took the cellphone out of my pocket and handed it to Billy. 

He looked at it for a minute. Then he chucked it at the people sitting on the bench. Luckily, it sailed over their heads, and landed just past the bench, appearing to break into pieces. (It was really just the front, back, and battery that separated.) I told Billy, "If you do that, it will break!  Then you won't have it at school any more!"

One of the teachers on the benches picked up the phone and handed it to me. My next idea was to turn it into a learning experience and let Billy try to put it back together. He actually sat down in the grass and worked on it quietly. He managed to put the battery in, but it was backwards, and he couldn't figure out how to put the cover on. I showed him how.

Then he chucked it again! 

This time he threw it out in an open, grassy area, and I made him come with me to get it. It hadn't broken this time. So Billy threw it again. I didn't mind. We were in the grass now, not around other people, and this was actually a step up from where we'd been ten minutes earlier!

Fifteen hours minutes later, our classroom teacher called the kids to line up. I towed Billy back into the school. As we walked past the high school teachers and aides, I heard one of them say, "I can't believe she let him do that to her phone!"

The rest of the day went fairly well. I literally cannot take my eyes off of Billy for a second, because he'll either be eating something, climbing something, or dashing for the door. So the three hour program seems like forever! He did sit in the group for calendar and reading, did three reading worksheet with me, decorate a fun foam visor, and watch and listen during music therapy. (My new favorite person on earth is the super laid back music therapist, who, when I was trying to haul Billy over to where the rest of the group was sitting, told me, "Pick and choose your battles. Let him sit back there if he wants." She then let him help her open and shut the CD player whenever she switched songs, and at the end told him, "Thanks for being my DJ, Billy!" I <3 you, music therapist!) 

So I think its going better, but I'd be interested in any advice anyone might have to give me! Keep in mind that we don't have a sensory room or motor room at our school, we don't have a Time Out room,  and the teacher and aides think its very important for Billy to be doing what the rest of the group is doing at all times. 

By the way, as for me and Billy... I already love the kid, of course! Even when he's trying to kill me. Its hard to resist him during his calm moments when he sits in my lap and plays with the tags on my lanyard, points to the picture on my ID and mutters, "That's Angel!" He's a good boy. He just doesn't want to be there. And I can't really say I blame him! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Yay For A Better Day!

I don't know if anyone is actually reading these blog entries, but if you did read my last two posts about Billy, I must have sounded like a horrible person torturing a poor child with autism! (If you didn't read those posts, Billy is the little boy I'm working as a 1:1 aide with for an ESY program, and he had a very tough time adjusting during the first week... he basically just hollered all day long! The other aides were irritated because they thought I should be somehow forcing Billy to sit quietly through all of the activities, even if he wasn't able to participate at all.)
Some of Billy's behaviors remind me a lot of the first little boy I was a 1:1 for, Tommy. He also had autism, although he was much more verbal than Billy, and also extremely smart. (Billy has an intellectual impairment as well as autism.) Like Billy, Tommy had trouble sitting through long group activities, and would start acting out. One of the things the teachers had already done for Tommy, before I started working there, was to make him a little chart with four boxes on them. Each of the first three boxes was equal to five minutes of work or group time. Whenever Tommy sat and did what he was supposed to do for five minutes, he got a star in one of the boxes. After fifteen minutes, he'd get to take a break. (The fourth box had a Pecs symbol for break in it.) Tommy was usually able to sit for fifteen minutes, when he could see that he was getting closer to a break. After a while I started waiting longer and longer to give Tommy each star. Pretty soon he was able to sit through almost an entire group activity before taking a break!
I thought maybe this same system might work for Billy. So, over the weekend, I made this.(There is a phone instead of a break symbol, because Billy loves phones, and he has an iPhone plus an old cell phone of mine to play with during his breaks.)

I put it into action today, starting when Billy first got to school. I showed him the card and, pointing to each box, explained, "Work, work, work, phone." Then I sort of ushered him over to the calendar area. Billy almost never sits on the floor like the other kids. Even when you give him a chair, he squats on it like a frog instead of sitting on it! He squatted on the chair for fifteen minutes, though, and participated in Calendar time as best as he could. He was able to tell the teacher that it was Monday and that the month was July, and he helped name some of the pictures on the schedule. Then he happily went to the other side of the room for his phone time! 

The only difficult part was parting with the phone at the end of the break. I would tell him he had one minute left, and after a while tell him he had ten seconds, and count down from ten. I would give him a chance to put the phone away. But usually I ended up wrestling the phone out of his hand and putting it up where he couldn't reach! However, once it was away, he did come and do the work he needed to do. 

In math, he did a whole packet of counting worksheets. (He can't really count, but he said the numbers as I touched the items, and he pointed to the number I asked him to.) During social skills, he was starting to get irritable, and had gone and put on his backpack in hopes of getting to go home! But he sat on my lap and answered some simple questions like his name and age. In reading, he sat on my lap with the group and helped name some pictures and some alphabet letters. And in OT, he colored a picture of the world green and blue and glued it onto another sheet of paper. (The OT, by the way, did not seem like the kind of person who should work with children! She spoke in a monotone, acted as if she were about to fall asleep at any minute, and never once cracked a smile.)

Billy was so happy when the day was over! I told him he did great work and that he should tell his Mommy what a good job he did. 

I feel good. Last week, at the end of each day, I left feeling discouraged and sad, and sort of trapped because I didn't really want to go back but I knew I had to. But today, I left feeling happy, the way I used to feel after a day of student teaching. Like I had really accomplished something. And now I can't wait for tomorrow! 

By the way, I also had to make this picture for Billy. LOL!