Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Possible New Job... Maybe!

I've been rocking this NaBloPoMo thing... I've been posting at least once and sometimes twice a day! Gotta celebrate the small victories!

If you've been reading my blog you may have seen my post called Up $#+@ Creek Without A Paddle the other day. If you haven't, here's a summary... I was having a terrible, awful, no-good, very bad day, I felt like I would have a meltdown. I used my DBT skills to hold myself together. But just barely. The end. 

So now, you'll be happy to know that some things have gotten a little better! First of all, my DBT therapist signed my sheet from American Airlines, and I just emailed it to them tonight, so everything should be okay with that. We shall see. 

Second of all, I have been working all week, at the same subbing job, and actually really enjoyed it! I was working as a 1:1 assistant for a kindergarten boy named "Sandy," who is autistic and is in a regular kindergarten class. The job was for afternoons only. When I first started the job it was just going to be for the day, and they did not really give me any information at all about Sandy. Only that he was a pretty sweet kid and that I needed to stick with him at recess, gym class, etc. After meeting him and spending some time with him, I assumed that he was attending a special education kindergarten program somewhere else, and then coming to the regular education kindergarten program for the afternoon. Sometimes they do that with kindergartners, I guess to try to give them the best of both worlds. 

I was surprised that, although Sandy was obviously a sensory disaster, he didn't seem to be getting any sort of help or accommodations. No OT or speech therapy.  No sensory breaks or sensory diet. No personal visual schedule. Just, one adorable little dimpled boy tip-toeing and hopping and flapping around the kindergarten room, with a different temporary 1:1 assistant every day to basically keep him from escaping. I wondered what was up with that. Surely his preschool program would have passed along all the things they were doing last year to help Sandy. Did the teacher just not want to do these things? (That didn't seem likely... the kindergarten teacher was one of the most awesome teachers I've met in quite a while.) Were they trying to wean him off of his accommodations for some reason... maybe working at making him "look like everyone else?" I kind of wanted to ask, or suggest something, like, "Maybe some sort of bouncy cushion to sit on would help him sit still on the carpet longer," or "maybe we could give him something to fidget with in his hands and that way he might not keep reaching over and grabbing random items off the floor." But I didn't want to overstep my boundaries, since I was just a substitute assistant.

After the first day they ended up asking me to stay and work with Sandy for the rest of the week. So I did. And it was a great week! Between the kindergarten teacher's calm, positive, nurturing teaching style, and Sandy's sweet disposition, everything was great. But, knowing I was going out of town the following week (next week) I wondered if Sandy was just going to continue having another chain of random subs. I felt bad because we'd already started to be comfortable together, and I hated to disappear on him. 

Then, this morning, I was talking with the teacher and found out Sandy's story. Sandy is not actually diagnosed with autism. This was surprising to me... because he isn't one of those, "Hmm, something may be a little different about him, but we can't quite put our finger on it, and maybe it is better not to label him just yet" situations. This little kid is very clearly autistic. But apparently he never got diagnosed... or maybe it was suggested to his parents by a pediatrician but they didn't want to consider it. He did not go to preschool at all, so he didn't have contact with any teachers or specialists who could have recognized his autism and at least made some suggestions. He just appeared on the first day of kindergarten, registered with all of the other children, with no information about him at all. So there he was, this little kid who had never set foot in a classroom in his life, who can barely talk, who cannot hold a pencil or a crayon, who is really not processing much of what the teacher is saying to the group in general. He was basically just running around yelling, completely overwhelmed and scared and not really understanding what exactly was going on.

After the first few days, when it was clear to everyone that Sandy needed some support, they decided to start having him attend for half days only. They thought leaping straight into all day kindergarten was kind of a lot to expect of any child who had never been in school before. They also arranged for him to have a 1:1 adult with him... but since he didn't yet have an IEP or anything, they couldn't actually hire a permanent person. So they just called it an "open position" and got a bunch of substitutes. Meanwhile they referred him for special education, and he started going through all of the testing and everything. In the first month of school, even with a 1:1, Sandy mostly just played with toys or took walks in the halls. The teacher worked with him on things like sitting on the carpet during story time, walking in a line, etc. But that is still hard for him, because of his sensory problems. He knows how to sit pretzel-legs on the carpet, but it is very, very, very hard for him to just sit there for twenty minutes during calendar time or story time. He wants to lie down, or curl up in a ball, or get up and leave. He has to be moving. It is so hard for him to just sit still. It is hard for any 6-year-old. It is ten times harder for Sandy. 

So anyways. They finally had an IEP meeting about him, and he is actually going to be switching to a self-contained special education classroom. They do not know yet if he will have a permanent 1:1 assistant... it will depend on how well he does in the self-contained classroom, I guess, or how much inclusion he will participate in. (If he does participate in inclusion, he'll have to have a 1:1 with him to go with him to the regular-ed parts of his day, at least.) But the teacher said, if he does get a 1:1, she's going to recommend me for the job. She said that, of all the people who have worked with Sandy so far over the school year, I have done the best with him! 

Of course, it isn't a teaching job. But it would be in a school where I'm already a little bit comfortable, with a kid I've already started to work with, a kid that I really enjoy working with. It would give me an "in" for applying for a teaching job next school year. 

I don't know whether I should start looking forward to it and getting excited, or whether I should put it out of my mind for now. The receptionist took my name and email and phone number and said that she would personally keep me updated about what was going on with Sandy's 1:1 situation, and that if she didn't know anything by the time I get back in town after Thanksgiving she will be sure to get me some other subbing jobs in the building so that I can at least be around. 

On Sunday Lily and I are leaving for Chicago, and we won't be back here until December 2. I am going to try to relax and have fun and enjoy being with my parents. Maybe, by the time I get back, I will have a job!


  1. I think changing assistants is stressful on Sandy. As for sitting, a bouncy cushion would do him good. Noise reduction headphones would also help because they block the background noise enough to assist in processing, but don't muffle the sound.

  2. I am so hoping this works out for you - and for Sandy, too. Bless you for looking after him the way you did, and not just seeing him as a half day job that ends when the bell rings!

  3. I hope you have a great time in Chicago, and good luck on getting the job with Sandy!


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