This week was definitely a test to see how much I could handle. The week started well, and I felt like I was getting a handle on all the lesson plans and curriculum. Then I received the news that a close relative was being flown on an emergency ambulance plane from Eastern Washington to Seattle’s Children Hospital with a severe heart condition. It was a tenuous few days before he was stabilized and so far he is making an amazing recovery. It will be a lifelong issue and he will need more surgery in the future, but for now, God willing, he is doing well.
Now back to work. I attended a meeting with my coordinator and the other student teachers that she is observing, and I received some valuable insight going into my TPA week. My classes went well, and the students are proceeding along nicely.
The main thing I think about over the last week is the behavioral differences and outlooks in my classroom. One of our students who is profoundly disabled and non-verbal had a flu/cold, and I can only imagine how it much feel to be sick and not be able to communicate that in the typical way. So of course he does it in a very behavior oriented way with outbursts. Another student who has Autism and is what I call “semi-verbal” because he doesn’t really talk to people. He can read at a primer level, which is about five grades below his age level, but he can read. Most of his interactions with peers and teaches is usually echolalic, either from what you’ve just said or from a book/movie. He too has had a rough week communicating what he wants or needs, and I saw my first clear situation of how changing the schedule of a student such as him is a counterproductive idea. He has a mixture PECS (Picture Exchange System) and word schedule that he is able to help organize every morning, so that he picks certain activities or snacks for the day. He checks them off as we progress, and this give him a feeling of organization and power for his day. One day last week he was having a challenging morning and after getting him calmed down and situated a Para-educator wanted him to come to the computers for an Edmark reading program (the computer is a preferred item), so I thought he was ready but he spent the next 10 minutes screaming and acting out. It was then that my mentor teacher reminded me that it wasn’t on his schedule, and it dawned on me how obvious of a mistake I had made.
On the other hand a student who is on “the spectrum,” but is one of our higher students academically, greeted me after I had taken a day off to be at Children’s Hospital. He is very shy, withdrawn, and speaks in a very quiet voice, but after seeing me he seemed to sense my inner despair, jumped up, came right over and asked me it was okay to hug me! Of course I gave him a nice side teacher hug, but it really lifted my spirits, which reminds me of a paper that I wrote concerning children with autism and their supposed lack of empathy (Is there a need for moral intervention concerning children with autism?). My feeling is, a feeling which is backed by research, that there may be some disconnections, but they do feel empathy and most of the detachment comes from not being able to express their feelings. Children with autism are very alike to their typically developing peers in the notion that there are no two exactly alike, and pigeonholing them into a narrow view is detrimental to us as teachers and to them as students and as people.