January 28, 2012

Why sitting doing nothing is more exhausting than doing something!

When one kid cannot handle the basic school situation, a solution must be found, for he deserves an education as much as the other kids, not to mention that it's the law.

So we step back a bit and make school more tolerable for that kid's needs. Like taking a break. Some kids respond admirably to getting a break. Some need a quieter place, less noisy, some less crowed, so they take a break in my little room and are ready to learn.

Some kids won't work: anxiety, discouragement, fear? Whatever, we let the behaivior direct us to the solution. Sometimes that takes many small steps. Sometimes we need professionals to give us ideas on how to break these steps down. 

I heard a clever idea at a conference on behavior modification for paraeducaters, (ha! that means teacher's aides). Give the child a note to hold, a reminder to raise a hand for instance. Or for my littlest ones a post-it-note for a reminder to walk back to homeroom. I wrote "WALK" and drew a stick figure walking. They liked the idea and proudly put it on their shirts to show the teacher. The conference leader also suggested interesting websites and books, including a wonderful website for which my daughter writes: Teaching Tolerance.

Step by step we take a little pressure off the student. Do they need more attention? Seat them close to the teacher. Do they need more personal space? Move other desks away a bit. Do they need to move and chat? Give them small tasks, call on them often. Do they need rewards? Fill in star charts that, when completed leads to free time, a prize box, or early recess.

We try and fail, so we try again, to discover the keys that open the world a little wider for students with special needs.

When we've tried everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) in the books and out of the books and still the kid will not work, throws tantrums, runs away (the scariest of all), we distill the program to the bottom line: Keep the child at school.

Take away any pressure and teach the kid to stay at school. That's the most severe case. That's what I dealt with this week.

Sitting in our small room, the learning center. Doing nothing. Feigning disinterest. Keeping the kid at school. From 8:10 until noon, at which time the student would fall apart, I sat. Student played educational video games for 2 hours, then Legos and magnets for an hour. In the middle of the "day" I encouraged eating a snack. Growling commenced and rose to a crescendo:"I'm not having my snack! So stop telling me to!"  

Recognizing the signs, I kept quiet. At 11:40 the child turns and sees me, congenially asks "Hey, whats for lunch today?" I explain that I don't know. "Well, I'll go find out." The cafeteria isn't open yet, I answer, but explanations are not what the kid wants, the kid wants to know and now, immediately! So begins the growling. Heads under the table, screaming for a while and then it's time for the explosion.

Pushing chairs and slamming one down and kicking it over was the first day.
The look in the eye was interesting.
Curious at first.
Furious at last. 
Screaming and throwing chairs.

A one chair day.
A two chair day.
Then, ratcheting things up a bit, my last day supervising this child;
The the wild 12 chair day.

I always stepped outside when the chairs flew, calling for professional (not paraprofessional) back up. And my morning was finished as the professionals tried reasoning, laid out boundaries and finally chasing a flipped out kid all around the campus. Calling home with no one answering.

The next step was hiring an aide.

So I was back to my routine, though in another room. Occaisionally hearing stories of wildness.

Actually it was very nice to leave the isolation of the small room that was my classroom and teach along side of the other teachers. I forgot how much I learn from watching them teach. And I'll be with them for a while, until a solution is found for a special needs child. 

God bless us all.

1 comment:

B said...

have I written yet about the teacher who kept saying "it's not that hard to sit still" to the kid with serious emotional problems?