Gift Guide for people with ADHD, autism and other special needs! You'll find ideas for everyone on your list!
I worked every single day this week! It was an exhausting week. But not bad at all. It started out with Monday, when I subbed in Portland as a Title I teacher. I got to work with small groups of children on reading.
Then I ended up accepting an assistant job as a 504 Assistant, which means an assistant for a child who is not in special education, but has a 504 Plan. Usually this means the child either has a physical disability, or sometimes kids who have ADHD. (I don't know why, but children with ADHD alone do not qualify for Individual Education Plans. Getting them a 504 Plan is a way of slipping through a loophole to get a child the accommodations he needs, even without an IEP.) The job was for Tuesday through Friday, and I decided to take it, even though I would make more if I tried to hold out for a teaching job in Portland each day... because this was guaranteed work for the whole week.
It turned out to be for a kindergartner named "Josh" who has a broken foot and can't go outside at recess. Incidentally he also seems to have some sort of undiagnosed ADHD or learning disability. When I got there the teacher explained to me that although my official job was just to stay indoors with Josh during recess and help him out if he needed mobility assistance throughout the day (which he didn't), she also wanted me to help him with paying attention, with behavior, and with doing his work. He was way behind the others in all of his skills, even as far as coloring, drawing, writing his name, and what-not. He had a really low frustration level as well. He would tell me, "Go away! I don't need any help!" and so I would stay near by, sort of working with other students, and soon Josh would be demanding, "HELP ME!" (He also was a sort of rude little kid... he acted more like an angry teenager than a 5-year-old! I tried to explain to him about the magic word, "please.")
Besides Josh, there were several other children in the class that had some behavioral problems. Sometimes it gets hard to tell whether a child actually has some sort of social-emotional behavior disability, or if he just has no respect or manners at all! When I see a child in public acting "badly," I always remember that it is possible there is something else going on... the 9-year-old running down the aisles of the grocery store screaming with chocolate smeared all over his face might not just be a kid with no parental guidance. But when you are in a classroom full of 23 children, and at least 10 of them are acting like this... it seems unlikely that all of them have special needs! There was one girl, for instance, who took something from the teacher's desk and was playing with it during "circle time." When the teacher told her to go put away whatever she had, the girl hid it in her pocket and said, "What do I have?" The teacher just looked silently at her, waiting, as the girl repeated several times, "What do I have? What? What? What do I have?" Finally she sighed and went to put it in her cubby. The teacher noticed what it was and pointed out that it did not belong to the girl, and then the girl started to insist that it was hers from home, until finally she gave up and put it on the teacher's desk.
The third day, the teacher was absent, and so there was a substitute. The teacher knew she would be out, and asked me to help out with one of the other children with behavioral challenges, a boy named Tony. Tony, with the adorable curls and big brown eyes, would throw a fit every time something went slightly wrong. If another child got a "Golden Paw" ticket (part of the school's reward system) and Tony didn't, he would run into the coat room and hide under the recycling bin and cry that everyone hated him, everyone was being mean to him. If someone bumped him by accident, if he didn't get to be first in line, if he tried to take a toy away from another child and the other child wouldn't give it up, Tony would be in the coat room crying. I spent the better part of that day with Tony, reminding him that he could only get his stickers on his behavior chart if he actually went and did his work instead of sitting under the recycling bin, coaxing him to just go to a group activity for ten minutes and then he could have a break, holding his hand to keep him from running off into the parking lot as we walked to the cafeteria.
I also spent a lot of time with Rachel, another little kid who was always crying when things went wrong. She was sort of like Tony, only more stubborn. She somehow bumped her knee on a chair and started crying. The substitute looked at her knee and told her there was no cut, no bruise, and that it would probably stop hurting in a few seconds. Rachel threw herself to the ground and refused to do anything for the next half hour. She finally got up and did some work when I reminded her that if she didn't do it she'd have to finish it at free time, and then just went and worked with Josh. Rachel got up and huffed over to her seat, and started doing her work, still making crying noises but with no tears coming out of her eyes.
Between Josh, Tony and Rachel, I felt like I was putting out fires! I didn't know any of them very well... I knew Josh better than I knew the other two, but he was actually the one who needed the least amount of my attention. But at the end of the day the substitute gushed about how great I was with the children and how I knew all of their personalities so well and knew how to respond to them.
The people at the school actually asked me to work with Josh again all next week, and I agreed to it, but then they changed it and asked me to work with a child in a special education class. So I will be doing that all next week. And then it will be winter break. And starting in January, I will actually be able to sub as a teacher here in Washington, so that will be more money for me!
The job with Sandy never panned out... Even though the people at his school were so enthusiastic about me working with him, I never heard from them again. It could be because he didn't get approved to have a 1:1, or because they had to hire someone internally for the job. I'm still a little disappointed, because I enjoyed working with him... but one thing this week taught me was that I could start to feel comfortable at any school. I have had bad experiences in the past, but not all schools are like that. I could easily find a place to fit in, maybe not at every school, but at more than just one. I had sort of felt like the job with Sandy was perfect because the teacher was so nice and I worked so well with Sandy... but it wasn't just a fluke, it could happen again in another classroom. I didn't get the same friendly connection with Josh's teacher as I did with Sandy's, but... you can't have everything. Tolerable is good enough.
So that is it! Now at least I will be able to look forward to a substantial paycheck! Unfortunately I won't get it until the end of January. Until then, I remain poverty-stricken.