All in a Sub Day’s Work

I have the pleasure of being a substitute teacher’s aide in the school district where I was taught to read, write, add, subtract, and other such things.  I was writing this at the end of another school year.  It was hard to tell just who was more ready for the bell to ring for the last time of the school year – the grown-ups or the pint-sized ones.
Play Day is held by the schools around Memorial Day holiday.  It is usually an all-day event unless there’s interference such as rainfall or three-digit temperatures.
Several schools had their Play Day on the Friday after Memorial Day.  One of the schools did not have their best Play Day compared to years past.  The bounce houses were a no-show.  That’s like all the roller coasters at a park like Six Flags or Disney being out of order.  The company couldn’t deliver them on time since they overbooked and didn’t have enough workers to carry out all their obligations that day.  Just an example of the supply not equaling the demand.
I was at another Play Day that Friday.  I was subbing in a special ed class for a teacher who I consider one of my dearest friends.  She had a story to tell on one of her students who has a “stubborn streak”.  You won’t find this term in a medical dictionary, but I’ve heard teachers use that term.  Now stubbornness is a trait that anyone on the planet can have.  It’s just this youngster has maximum strength stubbornness.  Maybe it is worse of late because he’s approaching the pre-teen age.
The teacher escorted her student to the water slide.  He made it to the top and what did he do?  He just sat at the top and wouldn’t budge so much as an inch!  His teacher shouted and pleaded for him to slide down.  NOPE!  She told the other kids to go around him and slide down.  Before she lost her voice, she told the high school boys who were helping out to grab his legs and pull him down.  This took more than one boy since the student is a growing boy big-sized for his age.
Image result for school water slides
In the back of her mind, she was hoping there wasn’t a parent videotaping this on their cellphone commanding teenagers to pull a kid down by his legs.  Finally, he came sliding face down all the way.  He looks up with a smile on his face, spitting water right in his teacher’s face.
I did not witness this myself.  The teacher told me and one of her two aides about it later.  She was laughing as she told it.  I doubt it was funny at the time it happened though, especially the spit part.
The following week, the last week of school for me, I was subbing for a P.E. aide.  When one of the older classes was lined up to leave the gym and head back to their classroom, a boy raised his hand and I went over to see what in tarnation he wanted.  I had him repeat it four times since I couldn’t understand what in tarnation he was asking me.  (One of my autism traits is verbal communication.  It isn’t so much hearing that I ask someone to repeat something, but more about giving me time to process what I am hearing).  He finally spelled the word “r-i-g-h-t” before I realized he was asking me, “You are a girl, RIGHT?”  I found out he and a female classmate had been debating about whether I was a boy or girl.  I told the girl, making direct eye contact which I don’t often do, that she guessed wrong.
I have been asked this before and it won’t be the last time.  I assume my short haircut is responsible for this question.  I like my hair short so I can spend less time with the hairbrush that I am sensitive to.  This does make me wonder what else the students say about me in their chit-chats.  Some things I am better off being in the dark about and this is definitely one of them.

The Energizer

If there was a video camera on me at 4 or so a.m. in the morning, it might find me jogging in place on the patio deck talking to myself.  Before someone calls out the mental health emergency responders, I am totally aware of where I am, what I am doing, and what time it is.  HA!

The sources of my “step” morning ritual, a Smart Watch on my left arm and a Fitbit on my right, are counting my steps.  FYI: I wear both because I like to compare the totals the two gadgets come up with at the end of the day.  Weird, I know.  The reasons I get up early are so I can be alone to do my thing and to get an early start on my stepping up to the plate.  I will be a uncomfy “aspie” if I don’t reach my daily “step” goal by the end of the day.

A few months ago, I purchased a new car while trading in my old one.  It was hard parting with my set of wheels since I am prone to be strongly attached to my things.  When they told me that all my old car’s tires would be replaced, well, then, I didn’t mind so much divorcing it.

My new car is MY new baby.  I have had it for four months now and I’m still keeping it spicking span clean inside and out.  I will go out and vac inside the car, clean the windows, etc. when I’m in idle mode or nearing meltdown country.  Just another activity I can do that helps smooth the wheels turning in my mind and keeps my “baby” handsome.

One of those most delighted with my turning into “The Energizer” is my Mom who is still active but doesn’t get around at the same speed as she used to.  She has long enjoyed working in the yard, but Arthur (aka arthritis) gets in her way a lot of times.  I started helping out and to my surprise, yard chores have a soothing effect on me as does rocking, pacing, and jogging.  The hard part is knowing when to stop.

My Autism Spectrum Disorder pushes me to perfection.  I can’t leave the yard until it at least looks like I have won the battle with the leaves where there is a heap fewer of them or the hedge looks trimmer than when I started.  Oh, by the way, my Mom doesn’t miss her once quality time with the rake or the clippers now that the energizer bunny has taken it over.



Hit the Wall

I was subbing for a teacher’s aide in a special education class on my list of favorite hangout spots.  Some of the students I have known since I started subbing back in late 2014.  There are a couple of boys who are recent additions and have through no fault of their own have turned the class upside down.

I admire tremendously the teacher and her two sidekicks for coming to school day in and day out to maintain some sense of order in the midst of chaos.  The teacher is often holding one student in her lap while another aide is trying to catch the other one on the loose.  The remaining aide is trying to help the other students to ignore the commotion and concentrate on their classwork.  They didn’t have much luck in doing that the day I was there.

After I got home from the long school day, I needed to decompress.  Although I remained cool, calm, and collected through the class time, the tension was building up.  My home computer was not cooperating and my banging on the keyboard wasn’t just about my computer’s slowness.  I needed to get away by myself before I exploded on people and things around me.

I went on a tennis date with my racket and ball to the practice wall at a nearby college campus.  It felt good to be outside and walk the campus trail by myself.  I hit the wall with the tennis ball for about a half an hour.  After my tennis date, I was able to go back home feeling calm instead of a live wire.

The class is still high on my list of favorites.  The boys who require extra attention are special in their own right.  They have their sweet moments.  At the end of the school day, I walked one of the students to his daycare.  I have a connection with him since knowing him for the last two years.  He took me by the hand and we walked hand-in-hand until I dropped him off.  It was the bright spot in an otherwise day where I had to go hit a wall to help melt a meltdown.




My 6000 Step Obsession

An obsession I have had for well over a decade is my collection of electronic devices.  I call them my toys and my toy store is Best Buy.  If most people shared this obsession, Best Buy profits would hit the roof.  Unlike Sears or JCPenny, they’d be opening stores instead of closing some store shutters.

When Uncle Sam’s tax refund recently arrived, I had an excuse to go to my toy store and buy what I had my eyes on and researched for weeks on the web: the Samsung GS-3 smart watch.  I was so excited when I brought it home!  Since it was a watch, this was one gadget I could keep with me around the clock.  I’m not a kid at heart.  No, I’m an “overboard” kid at heart.

The application (app) that perhaps is one of the most popular is the health one.  It displays a daily record of the steps I take.  I didn’t ask it to but it set a goal of 6000 steps per day. When I bought it, I didn’t think the number of steps I took each day would matter to me at all.  I forgot to consider the effect it might have on my constant companion – autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Since it is hard for me to sit still, another common ASD trait, I don’t struggle as much as perhaps other people in meeting that goal.  If during the week I am working a school P.E. substitute assignment, I don’t have to worry about hitting 6000.  But if it is more of a sit-down assignment of watching and working with youngsters in the classroom, I’ll have to step up to the plate before or after school to make up for lost time.

My “smart watch” is sometimes too smart for my liking.  If I have been sitting for an hour or so, it will vibrate displaying a message: “NEED TO MOVE” with a shoe icon underneath.  I may be at a place and time where I can’t do that, but if I can without breaking any social rules, I better get off my rear or my ASD guilt complex will kick in.

This isn’t a bad obsession as far as I can tell.  Exercise is good for my body and mind.  It is one of my best ways of avoiding or coping with ASD meltdowns.  It’s a rare day so far that my watch does not vibrate displaying the rewarding message of 6000 steps reached. The positive feedback from my know-it-all watch motivates me to step up to the challenge of 6000+.

It has been a couple of weeks since my GS-3 has been tied to my wrist (except when I have to give it juice for recharging).  I am going overboard but nothing new about my tendency to do that. I am jogging in place after I get up in the morning which is something I didn’t even think of doing pre-GS-3.  I even run in place while I’m waiting for the microwave to go off.  I now rack up around 13,000 steps per day.

I don’t dare change the default from 6000.  If I double that in a day’s time, that’s great.   But my motivation of reaching at least 6000 isn’t just desire or exercise.  My ASD won’t give me a break unless I walk 6000 steps by bedtime!  HA!


Jump, Dribble, or Hit the Wall

All the schools in my area had a “heart” fund drive during last February that included heart health awareness and jump roping.  The kids solicited dollar bills from kin and neighbors to raise money to help those whose hearts are not healthy.  As for what jump roping has to do with heart awareness, well, when I jump rope, my heart does pick up its beat!

It was news to me that jump roping isn’t just a kid’s game.  It is a sport!  I was subbing for a P.E. aide on that day each class was shown a video of an Olympian jump roper who did rope tricks at lightning speed.  The coach demonstrated how to correctly jump rope and the students attempted to imitate her demonstration.  Instead of just monitoring the students, I took a rope and joined them.  Since I had not jumped rope since my elementary school days, my hips got quite a jolt.  I was happy I managed not to trip and fall over the rope.

I have read on more than one autism website that individual sports such as running or swimming are ideal for those living on the spectrum.  That wasn’t news to me.  I don’t run or jog, but I do walk in a park by myself sometimes.  Since I often sub in gym classes, I have more opportunity to jump a rope or dribble a basketball.  I am best at doing “solo” activities, whether it be taking a whirl with a hula hoop or writing a blog.

I’d just rather compete against myself rather than another human being(s).  In my leisure time, I’ll go on a date with my tennis racket and ball to play against a practice wall.  The wall always wins, but I get exercise.  Sometimes I receive mental therapy by imagining that whatever is irritating me is the wall.  When I do that, my ball and racket get a hard workout too.  HA!

When I was in the gym one day, a couple of aides and students were at one basketball hoop playing together.  I was shooting baskets, too, but at a nearby hoop by myself.  I wasn’t entirely alone.  I had some social interaction.  The youngest student, kindergarten age, was in my shadow dribbling the ball to her own delight.  She is a little one living on the autism spectrum too.  We were content doing our own thing – she dribbling the ball and I aiming for the hoop.



My Wall to Unblock

Among the list of common autism traits is imagination.  I have one, all right; just sometimes it is too bizarre for words.

An outlet for my imagination and creativity is writing.  It can be a challenge at times.  I suppose every writer suffers from writer’s block and I’m no exception.  Words don’t always come easy-like.  There are times when I’m filled with words that flow freely and I’m simply taking dictation.  While other times, I sit at my computer desk staring at a blank screen with a brain to match.

One way I have found that often unlocks my writer’s block is a date with my tennis ball and racket at the nearby practice wall on a college campus.  In the space of an half-hour of engaging the wall in a tennis match, I have come up with an idea or two to blog about.  Maybe giving my physical body a dose of exercise helps to awaken the area in my brain where creativity and imagination lie.

On a Saturday where the weather was unusually warm for a day in February, I took full advantage of getting my racket and ball out from my car’s trunk where they had been hibernating for weeks.  It was good to be back at the practice wall.  My game was hindered by the wind kicking up its heels and my having not played since Ol’Man Winter had blown into town.

Another “autie” trait is having “unsociable” hobbies.  I like practicing tennis but I don’t like playing it.  Practicing by hitting a wall requires only me.  A tennis game requires at least two people since a tennis court has two sides. It doesn’t work too well otherwise.  I don’t have the desire to play with someone else.  I might if someone were around that I felt comfortable with, but my preference would still be just me, my ball, racket, and the wall where maybe I can unblock another blog.