Friday, January 14, 2011

TGIF: A Roundup of Various Happenings PLUS Dan's Mental Break!

"IT'S FRIDAY, HOORAY!" I couldn't agree more with these sentiments. One of the kids shouts this every week. It amuses me. This week was actually pretty good for being the second week back after Winter Break. (Not CHRISTMAS Break. Winter Break. Got it? Good. Need to make sure you're being PC, now.) Here are a few of the random events from the week:

- Tuesday morning, we were distracted because of some other things that were going on, and the kids were left largely to themselves. It was an opportunity to run a bit of a test, too, to see if the stuff would end up in the right cubbyholes, etc. Here's what went down: Joann stole a DVD from the shelf and put it in her bag when no one was looking. Jordan got excited and ran at someone. He wanted to take away their dry-erase marker, for some reason. Tara put her journal in the wrong place, and it wound up at someone else's house that night, making her all mad about it the next morning. Overall, though, most things ended up where they should've been.

- We discovered that Tara was stealing pencils and markers from the room, which explains why we were always short. The entire front pocket of her book bag was stuffed full of them. When confronted with this, she insisted they were hers. All of them. And she needed them at home. She was not amused when we took them away. The next day's "morning lesson" was all about stealing and lying. That's the second time this year we've had that lesson...

- Joann's parents sent back the DVD. She didn't like that one bit. That set off the first tantrum of the week. We had three more after that. By the way, Joann's tantrums? They're amazing. If there was some way to harness all the energy released during them, we'd probably be able to power the school for a day. You think you've seen a child scream, wail, kick, and flail about at the grocery over a candy bar? HA! You haven't seen anything.

Anyhow, those are the major happenings of the week. I should keep a journal someday, doing minute-by-minute logs of the minutia we deal with every day. Then again, that might be overly tedious... Hmm... Still, I'll consider it.

So, the story you've all been waiting for a long time to hear: Dan's Mental Break! Really, I don't know if it was a TRUE mental break, but it seems close enough to me. As you may remember, Dan has a problem with people who don't fit his definition of "normal". He calls them weirdos. That is tame, fortunately, because he could call them a ton of other, crueler things if he wanted, I'm sure. He has the vocabulary, at least.

Well, one day, he absolutely lost it. I don't remember the exact trigger at this point, but he went nuts. He started lashing out at the "weirdos" yelling that he's going to "kick them all until they're dead!" He literally was kicking at them, spitting at them, hissing like a cat, and screaming. The teacher's patience for him was thin long before he got to this stage. Earlier that day, he threatened to kill me, and said that he would sue the school for blah blah blah. Where he gets this stuff from, I have no idea. His excuse was, as always, that the weirdos were controlling his mind and making him say and do these things.

So what does the teacher do? Well, let me preface this by saying she is awesome. She grabs a desk, throws open the door, and drags it out into the hall. Then she runs back, grabs him by the arm, and drags him out. She sits him down, lectures him, etc. He calls her a bitch, she comes back in, calls his mom, and so on. Meanwhile, Dan is looking in the window, glaring at us, and spitting on the glass. It isn't long before there's a river of spit flowing down the glass. We're just ignoring him though, and the other kids, despite all of this, seem to not be noticing him. It's like he never started yelling to begin with. Must be nice...

Meanwhile, one of the aides goes to get something from our room across the hall. She opens the door, and--get this--he tries to knock her down with the desk! That was the final straw. The teacher dragged him down to the office and sat him down, leaving him for the principal to deal with. The funny thing was that the principal didn't seem to want to do a thing with him--he called his mom to come get him and left him sitting on the chairs in the waiting room up front. When I left for the day, his mom still hadn't arrived. There was spit everywhere though. I felt bad for the custodian that had to care for that later...

The funniest thing about all this was the fact that EVERYONE was just completely ignoring the kid sitting in the front office! He's sitting there, covered in spit, and no one even looked at him. Not even an amused/shocked stare! The secretary could care less, the other staff members just walked on by, and students/parents just sat far away and minded their own business. It almost seemed to disturb him more that he wasn't getting attention for his behavior. As I left the building, I smiled and waved at him. He just glared at me in response, and spat on the floor.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Hey, remember that one time I said I was back and would be posting more? That was awesome...

What happened, you might ask? Or maybe you aren't asking that. Either way, here's the scoop: I got busy in October, and in November, I was participating in some shenanigans elsewhere. December rolled along, I was sick of writing, and we had Winter Break. I did nothing for two weeks. It was NICE.

So, here's the list of posts I owe you from the last post I made:
- Dan's mental break and subsequent freak out.
- Neal suddenly threatening ridiculous things and substituting other words for cusswords so he doesn't get in trouble.
- Samantha learning a new phrase to shout at everyone... all... day... long...
- Joann stripping and playing with herself

Let's add to that:
- The Christmas party
- Christmas present roundup (AKA What our parents bought the staff)
- Parents lying to their kids--and asking us to fix it for them (This one's gonna be LOOOOONG and full of capital letter abuse.)
- Samantha trying to escape from the building
- Joann's new obsession--and subsequent freakouts
- Jordan's medication adjustments
- And MORE. Ugh. I am behind.

So, let's roll the dice and select.... "Neal's ridiculous threat" as the subject for today!

Neal, as you may remember, has some issues with language, but is pretty tame overall. However, he seems to have picked up some funny new things. Here's a sampling:
  • "Hey Pat! Fuck you Pat!" - I've only heard this once. It was out of nowhere and hasn't resurfaced since.
  • "Fart... Fart... Fart..." - Said quietly under his breath. No explanation for this one.
  • "I'm gonna scratch your eyes out!" - Said to me very quietly. I heard it clearly, asked him to repeat it to see what he would do, and he responded very loudly with "I didn't say anything." He grinned at me for about the next half hour. I kept my distance the rest of the day. Apparently he's been known to throw things at people in the past, and as far as I'm concerned, it's not a far leap to scratching from there.
  • "You piss me off!" - After he got in trouble for saying this to someone, he began to substitute similar sounding words just to see what he could get away with. "You prince me off!" and "That principals me off!" are two examples of the more creative things he came up with.
  • "Hey Pat! I did it with a cat!" - Ummm ... yeah... SOMEONE must've taught him to say that one.
 So yeah... There were more but I can't even remember most of them now. He seems to purposely try to say things in a way so that we just catch enough of it to get an inkling of what he said, but we can't be sure half the time.

Anyhow, I'll be back with more (for real this time) soon. As you can see, there's quite a backlog, and there's something new every day. I'll have to mix new with old until I'm finally caught up.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Normal Kid Moments

OK, first off: I'd like to start this post by letting you all know that I'm not dead! That's right, I'm still alive and kicking (and being kicked, some days). My absence can be explained, generically, as busy-ness. More specifically, I picked up a temporary, evening job and have been assigned some additional afternoon tutoring work. I've also been reading obsessively when home, so time isn't exactly a commodity I've had a lot of. But, the temporary job ended, tutoring is only two days a week, and my life is getting a little less complex. I'm breaking my rule of "no work on the evenings" since it's a slow Saturday night and I have nothing better to do...

Some things to look forward to in the coming days:

- Dan's mental break and subsequent freak out.
- Neal suddenly threatening ridiculous things and substituting other words for cusswords so he doesn't get in trouble.
- Samantha learning a new phrase to shout at everyone... all... day... long...
- Joann stripping and playing with herself
- And much more...

So, today's update is about what I call "Normal Kid Moments." These are times when the one of the kids seems to "lose" their disability for a split second, does something completely normal, and then goes back to being themselves. Sometimes it can be the funniest thing to see, especially when it comes at an unexpected time.

To give you an example, the other day I was sitting with Joann, showing her various pictures of kids in different situations, seeing what she could identify. One of the pictures was this kid who had set up a lemonade stand. But it wasn't just any lemonade stand, it had the e backwards and some letters missing; all of the letters were misaligned. I guess that's supposed to be "cute" or something... Now Joann CAN read, when she gets focused. (She also appears to have every book about Clifford memorized and can recite it word for word.) She looks at the picture, but seems thrown off by the way lemonade is written. She zeros in on the pitcher on the table in the picture instead, and says excitedly:


"No, Joann," I say, "That's not orange juice, that's lemonade!" Suddenly, the normal goofy, blank look completely disappeared, and it was as if she was suddenly able to express a normal human emotion on her face. (Something that's difficult for many autistic kids to do. A lot of them mimic emotions and normal social interaction as they see them, and can infer how they're supposed to work, but don't truly understand them. Temple Grandin [who is autistic herself] has some very interesting things to say on the matter, and I recommend reading something by/about her if you can.) Joann's face twisted into a look of pure displeasure, she frowned and looked convincingly annoyed. She looked me straight in the eyes (up from the picture in front of her that she'd been staring at) and said "Yuck." The look held for about 2 seconds, and then disappeared, replaced by the normal vacant, slightly goofy look. She pushed the picture aside and went on to the next picture of kids playing soccer. She identified this as "space ball", something I almost didn't catch because I was still slightly shocked by her earlier denouncement of lemonade...

Another "normal kid moment" comes from our friend Neal and also involved Joann indirectly. Joann was throwing a fit again at the front of the room. I was working at a table near the back with some of the other kids, who were too distracted by Joann to focus. Neal was sitting in one of the armchairs in the corner near us, plugging his ears. Like Jordan, he doesn't like prolonged, loud noises. Since no one at my table is paying attention, I shift my focus to Neal. He's closing his eyes, looking down, obviously distressed. Suddenly, he looks up, unplugs his ears, and stares straight at me. "That pisses me off," he said. Then he went back to plugging his ears, closing his eyes, and looking down, rocking back and forth slightly.

Finally, for our last "normal kid moment", we come to Austin. You've not met him yet, but he's NEVER a problem for us... Well, almost never. It's exceedingly rare, though, to say the least. Given that I'm mostly writing about the troublesome kids in our class, you probably won't hear much about him. Anyway, one of his behaviors is continually greeting people throughout the course of the day. He'll approach someone and say "Hello! How're you!" even if he's seen them all day. It's not really annoying or bad, though, just funny. So recently he came up to me and did the usual song and dance. I looked at him and said: "I'm fine! How do you do?" something I usually don't respond with. I was hoping to see if I could get him to mix up the greetings instead of always saying "How're you?". Instead, he looked at me, and in complete seriousness said: "How do you do what?" I was a little flabbergasted, and apparently he thought I wasn't going to provide an answer, so he ran off... Note to self: some English phrases and idioms should not be used with kids who take everything literally...

More later on this week!

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.