Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I Ran Until You Found Me

Tizzy, the kindergartner I've been working with, had a few different 1:1 assistants before me. For some reason the school district does things in an odd way... if they think a kid needs a 1:1 but the kid hasn't officially been approved for one, they are allowed to post it as an "open position" on the sub board, supposedly for up to 20 days. In that time, they are supposed to be able to have an IEP meeting and get it approved for a 1:1. In the months before winter break, I worked in several of these "open" positions, all, coincidentally or not, for kindergarten boys who just weren't succeeding in the rigid, academic based, all day kindergarten classrooms.

A few of these boys probably just weren't quite ready for kindergarten, and a few obviously had something different going on... not necessarily a special need they were born with, but more like coming from homes with really difficult or chaotic circumstances, kids who were just emotionally and socially not prepared for school. One job was with a little boy named "Sandy" who had entered regular kindergarten, having never gone to preschool or any other program before, and was very clearly autistic, but the parents either had no idea about it or didn't want to know about it. This little guy wasn't a, "Hmm, he may have Aspergers, or maybe he just needs to catch up developmentally." He was pretty much, like, if you wanted to give someone a great example of a child with autism, you could introduce them to him. I was with him in the general ed kindergarten classroom, and they actually wanted me to continue as his official 1:1 after he was moved to a special education classroom, but he ended up not getting approved for a 1:1. Shortly after that, I took another "open position" subbing job that was supposed to be for one day... it was Tizzy! He is in the same special ed classroom that Sandy was moved to.

I was with Tizzy that first day, and then they asked me to come back for the rest of the week, and then the week after that, and then the week after that... At first, I sort of hoped the job would end, because it was a challenging one, and when you're on just a short term subbing job it is kind of hard to work with a kid with a lot of behavioral challenges, because you don't have that connection with them yet. But soon we were building a connection. Tizzy asked me several times how long I would be with him, and said he wanted me to stay.

After a few weeks I went to the principal and said that, if the "open" position actually became open for real, I'd be interested in staying on. I also said that, if someone else was going to be hired, I'd like to know ahead of time so I could tell Tizzy when I was leaving. I didn't want him to just show up one day and find me gone. That is what often happens with subbing jobs.

 She replied that she'd let me know when it became open, but that I'd have to apply like everyone else. By that time, though, they were just scheduling me in week after week, without even bothering to ask me anymore!

It was long past 20 days when the job finally opened up, and by that time, although I did have to fill out an application, it was pretty much just assumed that the job would be mine. And so, last week was my first official week doing the job that I have been doing since January!
ANYWAYS... so like I said, before I came along, Tizzy had several other people subbing as a 1:1 for him. He had told me before about a woman who he calls a "granny" who had worked with him for a while, and he'd let me know that he hadn't liked her, so he'd hit her and kicked her all day long, and finally she'd gone away forever.

Tizzy also hits me and kicks me quite often. I reminded him of this, but he said, "Only a little bit!" I think he has some amount of control over his behavior, but not a lot. He does know what he's doing some of the time, and will hit, kick, and otherwise "misbehave" to get his way or to get out of doing work... but he also hits a point where he loses control, and later doesn't even remember much.
So today the teacher and two of the assistants were out sick, and we had three subs in their places. Tizzy recognized one of them as the "granny" that had worked with him once. She seemed mild-mannered enough, and I wasn't sure why Tizzy remembered her so unfondly.

But later, a classroom volunteer told me about a situation she'd had to intervene in. The Granny had been working with Sandy in the kitchen. The volunteer walked into the kitchen and found Alex sitting on the ground and screaming, and the Granny standing over him, also screaming. She was trying to get Sandy to do something. Probably to do his work. And he, being Sandy, had probably started refusing, getting up and wandering around the room, yelling, "No work!" And the Granny handled it by screaming back at him, which was just getting Sandy even more riled up, basically pushing the little dude into full meltdown mode. Seeing this, the volunteer said to Granny, "Do you mind if I take over?" Granny stepped aside but was still glaring at Sandy, so the volunteer said, "Could you please go away?" (That is what she told me she actually said!) Then the volunteer just said to Sandy, "Come on, friend, lets finish our work." And Sandy calmed down, took her hand, and sat with her and finished his work.

After hearing this story, I had a better idea of what had probably gone on between Granny and Tizzy. One of the things I like about the classroom I work in is that the teacher and all of the assistants seem to agree that yelling or shaming children is mean and useless. They all stick to being calm but firm, patient and understanding while still making sure that the kids know what they need to do.


Moving on.

Towards the end of the day, Tizzy, once again, started telling me the story of him and the Granny. He told me again that he kicked her and hit her. "And then they held me," he said, meaning that someone probably restrained him, "and then I ran. And I ran and I ran and ran and ran and ran and ran... until you found me!"

I don't know why, but his words, the way he said it, touched my heart. Of course, I didn't literally start working with Tizzy in the middle of the day while he was still running from the first sub. I actually was in the building, though, that day, working with an older kid in another classroom. But I really didn't meet Tizzy until the next morning, when his teacher handed me a folder full of worksheets for him and said, "He isn't doing much academic work at this point... we're basically trying to manage his behavior," and let me know that I'd probably spend most of the day with him in the social worker's office. But since he sometimes doesn't remember everything that happens when he's upset, maybe in his memory it really does seem like I appeared while he was still running.

Either way, I'm glad I found Tizzy. I really do love the kid.


  1. That is SO cool! He's a very lucky boy to have you. You've made a real difference in his life.

  2. AWWW! You are doing this work for a reason!!!!

  3. I have conflicting emotions as I read this. My heart just breaks for these children who were tossed into a vicious world without the capacity to deal with the challenges by themselves - and then I swell with pride to "know you" - a true angel who enters these chaotic lives and brings calming order to them. Bless you, Angel!

  4. I'm so so glad that he has you! It breaks my heart that too many teachers and aides don't know what to do but yelling at a child who is going to meltdown mode? Ugh. SO GLAD THE WORLD HAS YOU!!!!


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