Friday, September 17, 2010


Wow. This has been one of the craziest days we've had that I can ever remember. If this were Thursday, I'd probably call in sick tomorrow... Why was today so nuts? Well let me just give you a synopsis of a few of today's events...

- Samantha (a girl you've not met yet, her introduction will come next week) was wired from the beginning. This means she spends all day shouting at other kids. This gets Jordan upset, of course. Later in the day, she escaped from our room and ran down to the cafeteria.

- Several of the other non-verbal kids, taking hints from Samantha, decided that today was shouting day. They spent the entire day screaming as well.

- Dan freaked out because of all this and said "I can't take it anymore! These weirdos are breathing my air!" Later, the teacher asked him to do something, and he called her a bitch. That went over real well. I stole a peak into his journal though (he's been encouraged to write down his thoughts and feelings about people instead of yelling it at them). It was funny. One entry I liked: "I dont like pat they are a bossy jerk."

- By afternoon, Jordan decided it was time to start kicking and hitting everyone. For no reason.

- Ben (another child you've not met just yet) came to school smelling like crap and wearing dirty clothes. Apparently, his mother forgot to bathe him for several days.

- Tara was being an absolute brat and had to be disciplined. (Which consists docking points from her behavior chart [which means she gets less rewards at the end of the week] and being talked to.) This resulted in her bolting from the classroom. When I caught up with her, she said she hated us all and we're all mean. Somehow I got her to come back to the room. Can't remember how offhand...

There was more. But I can't even remember anything additional at the moment. I'm so ready for this weekend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Spectrum Vs Spectrum

A large percentage of the kids in our class are in there because they are somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. What fascinates me so much about autism is that no two kids with autism are the same. With other disorders, you can make a few generalizations about a kid who has it, be it the way they look, act, and so on. Kids with autism, though... there's no generalization that seems to hold true for ALL of them. (Of course, I am aware that no generalization will hold for any disorder. The point is just to emphasize how widely varied autistic kids are.)

Let me introduce you to two of our autistic kids: Joann and Jordan. Joann is one of our new students this year. We're still trying to figure her out, but what we do know is that she has some obsessions (I won't go into them at the moment) and if we try to prevent her from doing what she wants to do (it's rather disruptive) she throws a fit. She screams, she whines, she cries, she'll hit herself in the process. It's a ridiculous behavior, and we're working to put a stop to it. It won't be easy though. Additionally, she tends to moan all day at random times as is. This seems to be her outlet, so we can't eliminate it entirely. It's just the tantrums that need to stop.

Meanwhile, Jordan is autistic but very reserved. He has no real obsessions. The only issue with him is that he cannot tolerate really loud noises. Granted, people are screaming all day, but as long as it's not continuous, he's generally fine. One of Joann's fits today, though, pushed him over the edge...

Joann was once again making her way to the object of her obsession. One of the aides intervened, and Joann lost it. She fell into a heap on the ground, screamed, cried, hit herself, etc. Something like this isn't an entirely unusual experience, so none of the other aides were in a rush to offer help. We figured Joann would quit in about a minute as always. But she didn't. She carried on and on and on. Jordan got up, yelled "WHAT IS JEANIE DOING?" (he still hasn't learned to say her name properly) and came running towards her. He was poised and ready to attack.

Fortunately, the teacher turned around and blocked Jordan before he could get to Joann. Unfortunately for the teacher, Jordan didn't care who he attacked at this point, and punched the teacher square in the gut. While the teacher was recovering from this blow, the aide who had triggered Joann's tantrum grabbed Jordan (he kicked the aide in the knee for this) and led him out of the room to calm him down. On his way out, he threw anything he could grab back at Joann, who was still screaming. I believe he got hold of a pencil, book, and folder. Peanuts compared to last year, when he threw a chair across the room. Then he kicked another student who was just standing there staring at the chaos.

Finally, as soon as Jordan was gone, I resumed math time with the other students in my group. Just another day in our room...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dan Doesn't Like The Intern

Now that we've been in school for a week, we've been assigned student interns, one for each period of the day. Most of them are your standard high school students: average kids who perform on an average level. The administrators say that getting student interns is one of the reasons we can't get another aide, even though the students can't do a lot of tasks that we really need done.

So it isn't really the best. But there is one bright spot: one particular intern, so far anyhow, does very good work. He's great with the students, takes some initiative at times (most interns have to be told to do anything and everything and won't do anything on their own) and is pretty patient. There's just one thing: remember when I said most of the interns were just your average high school kid? This kid is the one exception. Honestly, I'm not sure of any "label" to use for him. I'll just describe his "look" and if there's a label, someone could fill me in in the comments.

His hair is dyed jet black. It's kept moderate length, except in the front, where it forms a swoop across the face. (A friend has jokingly referred to this as a SUPER SWOOP because it's so long and exaggerated compared to the normal swoop hairstyles you see. It looks kind of like this only shorter on the sides.) He has several piercings, though they're all on his ears, none on his face. Usually he's wearing shirts featuring some band or other. But today...

Now remember, Dan (first discussed here) doesn't like anyone who isn't "normal" in his eyes. This intern was already pushing it, but today he came in wearing a V-neck shirt. This wasn't just any V-neck shirt though: it was deep. I was honestly surprised he was allowed to wear it to school, but I checked, and the dress code doesn't say anything about guys wearing V-necks like that. (Girls on the other hand...)

Dan spotted the intern and couldn't hold his tongue. He started walking toward the intern, eyes wide. He was definitely on a mission, and had to give this intern a piece of his mind.

"Hey!" he said.

"What?" the intern said.

"You're wearing a girl's shirt. You're a guy. You shouldn't be wearing a girl's shirt."

"What?" the intern seemed dumbfounded. At this point, the teacher started to lecture Dan about manners, but Dan wasn't going to be silenced.

"You're a guy. You shouldn't be wearing a girl's shirt."

"I'm not." Dan didn't seem convinced. He stared. He blinked several times, processing.

"Well you should really wear a different shirt." He looked at the teacher as if to say "I'm finished" and walked back to his desk.

The rest of the period, he continued to glare at the intern. The intern seemed a little perturbed. Makes me wonder if he'll ever wear that shirt to school again...

Friday, September 10, 2010


Unlike some other classes I've heard about from other aides, we don't have foul language spewing forth from the mouth of every student all day long. Usually it's extremely tame. I'm still not sure how we've lucked out on that end, but I credit two things that have probably helped prevent the kids from learning/using the words: (1) they've been in isolated classrooms and rode separate buses their whole school career, so they've not learned it from the other kids. (2) Our school is in a fairly conservative area of the country so the parents don't tend to use it at home a lot. There are two students who are exceptions to this rule, however...

One of them is named Dan. I couldn't even begin to describe everything about him, but the long and short of it: he's on the spectrum, and he's a germaphobe. This is a bad thing in our room, because several of our students have issues that result in them drooling a fair bit. (To be honest, I've never worked in a classroom where there hasn't been at least ONE student like this.) He hates them. We try to keep him separated, but there's only three of us. (The fourth usually stays in a small office adjacent to our room and works one on one with some of the higher performing kids.) This means the kids sometimes will come towards him, some of them unknowingly, others because they honestly just want to be his friend. (They'll drag some of the other students towards games, puzzles, or other things they want to play with. Really, though, none of them are capable of actually doing it, but they like to sit with you and make you do it for them.) Additionally, many of the students are perfectly FINE in our eyes (IE they don't drool), but because they're in some way damaged in his view, he hates them.

The point of all this is: while he usually just shouts and runs the other way when they're coming toward him, sometimes he'll kick at them and/or shout profanities at them. Usually things like "Get the hell away!" or "Bitch!" Sometimes he yells this at the teacher/aides too. That, of course, doesn't go over well...

The other student, Neal, is also on the spectrum. He's usually quiet and reserved, not contributing much to class discussions. He's also one of the nicest kids in the class. Always willing to help, happy, says things like "You're the best!" when he does talk, and so on. The other day, however, I learned what happens when he gets stressed out for whatever reason. (Often, there is no logical reason for them to get stressed out, but that's a subject for another day.) He was sitting at a table and I asked him how he was doing. His response? "Shut the hell up." Gee, I wonder who taught him that?

So overall, our class is pretty tame as far as language is concerned. I'm told one of the former students was pretty troubled and would scream anything and everything when angry. The image is pretty funny in a way, but I'm glad he's gone so I don't have to deal with that myself.

As one of our students would say: "Yay, it's the weekend!" I concur. Back to the old grind on Monday, but until then, I'm not going to think about school at all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

(One of) The New Kid(s)

As mentioned before, we have 3 new kids this year. Each one of them is TOTALLY different than any of the other kids we currently have, so it's kind of tough getting to know them and figuring them out. One of the new kids, though, I can already foresee being a problem...

This particular student is named Tara. Tara is a short, stout little gal who has Down Syndrome. In case you're not familiar with Down's, it can vary widely from person to person. Some are very high functioning, others not as much. Most (though not all) of the Down's kids I've dealt with can be VERY stubborn when it comes to getting their way. This isn't universally true, though, and seems to hinge somewhat on how well the parents discipline the kid. Sadly, that's lacking in many cases today.

As far as stubbornness, Tara is above and beyond anything I've ever seen in my life. Getting her to follow direction is proving extremely difficult. Incentives that work for all of the other kids don't work as well, so far. (I'm giving it some time though.) While I could ALREADY tell you tons of stories, I will give you two shining examples of this kid's stubbornness:

1) We're in a high school, and while our kids don't go out for any classes, we still occasionally walk in the halls (IE lunch, gym, etc.) Though we try to avoid it, sometimes we're in the halls during the passing periods. Not fun. Some of the kids would plop down or wander aimlessly unless we grab their hand during times like this, so myself and the other aide were a bit distracted with these kids. Suddenly we noticed Tara was gone. A few minutes later, we get a call. Tara wound up following someone she knew to their class and wouldn't leave. The aide went down to fetch them, but she wouldn't come. Finally we had to get the guidance counselor to come and drag Tara out.

2) Today, Tara wanted to go get a drink from the fountain in the hallway. Given that Tara is now on the "not to be trusted in the hall by herself" list (due to the previous incident and several others), she was told no by the other aide. Tara looked at the aide, clenched her fists, and said "YES!" Aide again said no. She clenched tighter, began to shake a little, and suddenly... her pants were wet. Yes, that's right: she peed herself to get back at the aide who wouldn't let her go out in the hall by herself. I couldn't believe it.

Sadly, she had a change of clothes (many of the kids do) in the dresser, so she was able to change and stay. The rest of the day, she was still angry and as stubborn as ever. It was as if the "peeing herself" incident never happened. Unbelievable.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The First Day

Well, that was a fairly smooth first day. Aside from the fact that the students we had last year forgot the routine (not surprising, "normal" kids tend to do this too over the summer), things went pretty smooth. We got the three new students acclimated to the class, did the little "introductions" song and dance, and so on. Really, it was surprisingly smooth. I doubt it'll last... All told, we have 14 kids in our class this year. I'm not going to introduce them ALL in this post (that'd probably be incredibly boring) but allow me to introduce you to one student who entertained me today.

Shawn: Shawn is in our class primarily due to his social anxiety. He has extreme difficulty socializing, and when asked questions, will usually not answer. He'll just stare at you. If you continue to coax him, you might eventually get a one word answer. At times, though, he'll surprise me and come up with some strange things out of the blue. An example of this occurred during math time today. Shawn does really well with his math, and usually is the first one done. We didn't have long for math today anyhow, since everything on our schedule was a bit behind.

So we break out into our math groups and Shawn finishes first. I wasn't entirely surprised. Not having anything else to do, and with the teacher and other aides occupied, I just told Shawn to sit tight, and wait. He just stares blankly at me, as usual. About two minutes later, I'm watching the other student do their calculations, and suddenly Shawn just goes "Ba da ba ba ba, I'm loving it!"

That was about the most unexpected thing that could have happened... I wanted to laugh so hard, but I couldn't, because that'd probably discourage Shawn from future expression. Most of the time his outbursts aren't as crazy random as that one was. So instead I just looked at him and said, "You must be hungry!" He didn't respond. As usual.

So, take note, McDonald's marketers: Your slogan is working! In our classroom at least...

Monday, September 6, 2010

An Introduction

So if you've stumbled across this site, you're probably wondering what the deal is with the title. Well, allow me to explain: my name is Pat. I work in a special education classroom as a teacher's aide. (Where is not relevant.) I actually started last year. Some people told me that it must be "an easy job." Well, let me tell you: despite the fact that these kids are all "slow" to varying degrees, they keep us on our toes, constantly. It seemed like I had a new crazy story every day. I would tell friends, and half of them wouldn't believe me. Of the other half, some found the stories sad, but the majority were able to see the humor in it.

Those that saw the humor understood that by me telling these stories, I wasn't making fun of the children in question, but I was relating the bright (or not so bright) moments of my day. I was venting my frustration at the parents, school, administrators, and others who weren't allowing these students to reach their full potential due to funding, neglect, etc. I was sharing my delight at having helped one of these students learn something seemingly simple that they hadn't previously been able to grasp.

Anyhow, regardless of what I put here, I know I'll still get people who write me hate mail. There will be people who accuse me of being a horrible person. There will be people who just don't get it. For those people: Sorry if you think I'm a horrible person, but this is one of the ways I keep my sanity and share what I do. For those of you who do get it, thanks.

This all started as a result of a friend telling me I should "totally write a book about what happens in your class." Well, writing a book sounds like too much work. So I've made a deal with this friend and decided to write a blog instead. And here I am. School starts tomorrow, and I'm sure I'll have something to say. At the very least, I can profile one of our many students in our already overcrowded classroom...

Until tomorrow, I'm going to go do something not-school-related  for the next several hours, before I reluctantly drag myself to bed. Should be a heck of a year.