A Sense of Humor Goes a Long Way

I am a substitute teacher’s assistant which means I fill in when an assistant is absent for a whole host of reasons. I suspect one of those reasons might be to take a day off for tending to their stressed-out nerves. One of many advantages of being a part-time substitute is I can take a few days off between assignments to avoid nervous breakdown country.

This job has given me an appreciation for school staffs. I didn’t give my own teachers enough credit for putting up with me and my peers back in the 60 and 70s.

One of my assignments that I have added to my “war stories chest” was about a male student who was “all hands”.  This was his most used body part!  While trying to doing a one-on-one assignment with him, he kept putting his hands on my face, neck, and once attempted to go further south.  This wasn’t a surprise since I had been in his class a few months back.  That time he repeatedly touched me in my privates.  I wasn’t upset with him since he’s only 5-years-old.  If he were older, well, now that would be an entirely different story. HA! 

I escorted him to gym class with another student who was one of the two girls in the class.  The rest were all boys.  I didn’t have to watch the girl and it’s a good thing she didn’t need as much watching because the boy couldn’t be left alone.  He would chase after other kids to get his hands on one.  It didn’t help that some kids would come up to him knowing full well he would chase after them. 

One of my better assignments was an afternoon subbing for a kindergarten aide.  I seldom EVER do kinder, but I thought I could manage a half-day.  I was surprised when this assignment was a four star one.  The reason had everything to do with my “Billy” (autism).  Billy isn’t entirely a thorn in my side. 

On the bright side, I credit Billy with my attention to detail, my craze with organizing things, putting things in order alphabetically, numerically, or some other system.  Well, in this assignment, I went from each of the kinder classes and did whatever the teacher needed.  In all cases, it was to work on paperwork such as stuffing kids’ folders.  Such work is right up Billy’s alley!

Not that I had to, but I finished the folders with putting them in numerical order knowing that they wouldn’t be kept that way.  But as long as they were under my control, they would be in ORDER!  I was on cloud nine doing this kind of work that other folks find BORING!  It is when I have to do heavy-duty social interacting with the kids that will wear me out … especially KINDER with 20-something of ’em per class.

Oh ye of little faith

On a Martin Luther Kings holiday, I came across one of King’s quotes. This one I unpacked in my memory bank since there are times when I’m running low on faith. These words are good for filling up with some “faith” fuel:

FAITH IS TAKING A STEP WITHOUT SEEING THE ENTIRE STAIRCASE.

This short quote is an easy one to remember. I wish I could say that it was as easy to live this quote. I’m fairly good at it when things are going smooth-like. Moments when I’ve got a good spring in my step or I’m residing at the moment on cloud nine. But I confess I have plenty of room for improvement at living the King quote when anxious thoughts of what’s on my plate are popping up in my mind.

Jesus’s disciples had their own struggles with faith even though they were in the company of Jesus. In Matthew 8:26, Jesus tells his disciples,
And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.”

This occurred during a storm when the water was so high that it was coming into their boat. I can’t blame the disciples for being terrified even though they had Jesus with them. I’ve been through “life” storms like everybody else. Despite my having a flood of memories of storms the Lord didn’t let me drown, my faith isn’t always at full strength when a storm comes through.

I relate to the disciples. It isn’t easy for me to take my eyes off on what turbulence I see and keep my eyes on the One I can’t see. Life affords me plenty of practice though. There always seem to be a storm brewing somewhere.

Growing Up on the Spectrum

She’s the only girl in her Autism Special Education class.  She’s in 4th grade as of this writing.  I’ve worked as a substitute teacher’s aide in classes she’s attended since she was in pre-school.  I’ve met all her teachers and without exception they have described her as being very smart.  I could see that myself from watching her do class assignments.  She was more often than not the student who knew the answer to the teacher’s question before anyone else. 
I thought some years back that she had the potential to be one of the ones who would transfer to general education classes.  Well, the transfer isn’t complete at this writing but she is spending some of her school day in general ed.  Her teacher is hopeful it will increase to full-time.  She is book-smart, but her behavior and social skills needs a bit more work.  
I empathize with this student as I do others in her class.  One doesn’t outgrow Autism.  I’m 60 and my social skills could still use some work.  Such as I enjoy being a substitute aide but such things as deciphering teacher’s verbal instructions is a constant challenge for me.  
It is a common Autism trait to be “brutally honest”.  This 4th grader  definitely has this trait.  Or, you could say that tact is not her thing. Maybe she will learn it as she gets older and maybe not.
 
For instance, on one occasion, the other aide and I were sitting at the table with her.   She told the aide whom I guessing is in her 40’s, “You are a little old.”  Then, she looked at me and said, “You are…”.  I interrupted her with wave of hand.  I knew what was coming and stopped her in mid-drift from saying “very” old.  That’s the one time I caught her.  In other words, most times I didn’t dodge her brutally honest bullet.
Kids, you gotta love ’em, whether they are growing on the Spectrum or not.

Growing Up on the Spectrum

It is an asset when you are on the Autism Spectrum to have a connection with a fellow traveler on the Spectrum. Whether in person, e-mail, texting, or social media, it can help to have someone in your life who is facing similar challenges. I’m fortunate to have several because of my job as a substitute teacher’s aide in elementary schools. One of the areas most needed for substitute’s are Autism classes. I have been subbing for five years and I literally have watched my fellow younger travelers grow up from as far back as pre-school to 6th grade.

I recently saw one of those students I’ve watched grow up for the last four years. He is at this writing in the fourth grade. In two more years, he’ll be starting a new chapter in his life journey: middle school. Since I don’t sub in middle school, I’ll not see him grow up past 5th grade.

He already faced going to a new school because he was moved from one school’s autism unit to another. At the time I saw him, I was subbing for a physical education aide in his new school. It was news to me that he had been transferred. It was a pleasant surprise! He had always been in his class at a higher level than the other students. Academically he was head of the class, but his social skills needed some work. I empathized with his difficulty in just asking the teacher or aide a question or asking for help. I had that problem at his age and I still have that problem still and I’m 60! I was astonished to see how much he had improved in interacting with both adults and the other students. He recognized me and with just a tad of urging from the aide, he said hello and my name which he remembered on his own.

He was more active in P.E. class than he was at his old school.  I observed him talking more to other students. I write this blog because it isn’t often I can write about a story first hand of a student with autism show tremendous improvement after having not seen them in a good while.  But when it happens, it makes all the effort to help those growing up on Spectrum worthwhile.

He is special to me because he reminds me of ME!  Such as in the dining department. I relate to him still eating the same lunch that he ate four years ago.  The aide asked me, “Did he eat just toast and bacon the side back at his old school?” I nodded and laughed! Yes, that him all right! He eats it the same way in the same sequence (first the bacon, then the toast).  When he was asked by the aide what he had for Christmas, it was the same old thing, toast and bacon.  I have the same meals, same time, with little change every day.  My main entree for dinner will be different, but everything else is the same and I eat it all in the same order.  I even cut things, like pizza, a certain way.  Otherwise, I won’t eat it. 

His favorite on the playground is a swing and that was mine too.  He is obsessed with a soap opera “Bold and the Beautiful.  I was a soap opera addict at his age too. I had more soaps to watch since such there was more “soap” to watch back in the 60s and 70s. 

Also, the teacher’s aide says he is so smart and well, we have that in common too.  HA!