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!