Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Goodbyes and Good News

 Don't worry, I am not saying goodbye to you... although I haven't been very good at keeping this blog updated, have I? I need to get back on a blogging schedule. But I've been pretty busy, both ending my school year job, and beginning my summer job. For a while I was doing both at the same time, which meant working about 14 hours a day! But since the school year has ended, things have calmed down a little bit.

The end of the school year was kind of sad for me. I had to say goodbye to Tizzy. That in itself didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. Last Wednesday was Field Day, and Tizzy actually had a really good day. The behavior specialist was going to come spend time with Tizzy for Field Day, plus we'd been having an extra staff member with Tizzy and I for the past week because of his continous running out into the street, so there was going to be three staff members with Tizzy for Field Day. Because of this, the teacher and social worker asked me to help out with Sandy, who doesn't have a 1:1 but should. Anyways, the behavior specialist didn't show up (which I thought Tizzy would flip out about, but he actually took it very well) but Sandy was having a hard time at Field Day so I did end up helping with him. Tizzy was behaving wonderfully with just the substitute who was there as the second staff member for him... the sub was a calm, good-natured, grandfatherly man whom Tizzy insisted on calling "the Old Man," and Tizzy responded well to him in a way that he never seems able to do with females (which the social worker thinks is due to the fact that he sees women in his family being treated disrespectfully and even abusively by the men in his family, and so that is the way he acts with women, especially when he actually does love you!) Plus Tizzy is a very kinesthetic guy, and Field Day was all about trying different physical activities and participating in races and things, so it was a perfect afternoon for him.

Sandy, on the other hand, just kept wandering off. The teacher, who doesn't always have a lot of patience for Sandy, told me and another assistant to bring Sandy back inside for a time out. The only way we could get him in was a full therapeutic hold transport, which I didn't really think was the greatest idea, because we're only supposed to do that when someone is being a danger to themselves and others, and Sandy was just being mildly disobedient. There have been a few times when I've acted against my better judgement with Sandy because I was following directions from the teacher, and this was sort of one of these times... the other assistant and I had to more or less frog march Sandy into the school while he cried and yelled helpful things like, "Someone call the police!"

Instead of bringing him to Time Out I thought I would at least bring him to the social worker's office for a sensory break. As soon as we got in there and turned him loose, he stopped crying and stood facing the wall. I asked him if he wanted to play with a sensory bin or just take a rest. He said, "Sensory bin." so I gave him the bin of colorful rice, and he cheerfully played with it until it was time to go home. I took him straight out to the bus instead of going to the classroom first. I put him on the bus and only briefly got to say goodbye to Tizzy as he got onto his own bus.

The next day was a half day, and the last day of school. I was prepared for a difficult goodbye with Tizzy. I got a backpack from the social worker (Tizzy never brings one) and filled it with all of his work from the school year, plus some of the learning activities we had done together, like the sight word game I had made for him and the flashcards we'd made with glitter stickers. I put in the stuffed animals and other things he had won from his behavior modification program. I thought maybe these things would give him some comfort over the summer.

But Tizzy didn't come to school.

I kept looking and looking for him, thinking he might show up late, like he sometimes did. But he never came.

I guess in a way, it is a good thing, because we avoided a difficult goodbye and left it at sort of a "see ya later." But it was hard for me, because I'm not going to see Tizzy again, at least not in a school setting. We live in the same town so we might see each other at the mall or something,,, but when he returns in the fall for school, I won't be there.

And that brings me to the good news... I got a teaching job!

A real, actual, serious teaching job!

It is in a small school district just north of where I live. I'm going to be a Learning and Behavior Support Teacher for kindergarten through fifth grade.

I am still having trouble believing it... I keep expecting the rug to get pulled out from under me. It has happened before with a job I thought I had. Everyone keeps telling me to think positively... but a part of me still needs to protect myself from being hurt.

For all intents and purposes, though, I am now a real teacher!

And now I have to close out and get ready for bed, because I am also the leader of a very busy day camp for kids with special needs, and I have to get my rest so I can be ready for tomorrow!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Don't Tell This To Your Children

This blog post has been writing itself in my head for weeks now, spurred on by something Tizzy said to me.

Your brothers drink a little too much at the family gathering and get in a brawl on the front lawn. You are late paying the electricity bill and your lights get shut off. You have a noisy argument with your spouse. You are too exhausted to make dinner for your kids and they go to bed hungry. You tell them, "Don't tell anyone about this."

You have a good reason for saying it. You don't want everyone knowing your family's business. After all, if your daughter tells her little friend Heather about the time you left her waiting in the car for just a few minutes while you ran into the grocery store, and Heather tells her mommy, the next thing you know, all the other moms at the school's Ice Cream Social are giving you the hairy eyeball. It isn't right to air your dirty laundry. You want privacy.

But... Here's the thing. When kids are little we talk to them about fun secrets and bad secrets. Fun secrets are things like, "Don't tell Daddy about the special present we got him for his birthday," or "We;re taking the kids on a surprise trip to Disney World." Bad secrets are secrets that someone asks you to keep when they are doing something wrong, something unsafe.

Your little family secrets... they're sort of a gray area. But when you tell your kids to keep that sort of secret, you teach them that they... and you... have something to be ashamed of. They learn that it is their responsibility to protect adults by keeping their secrets. They learn that nobody outside of the family is to be trusted. And think about this... if someone does hurt them, and tells them to keep it a secret, they will have already learned about keeping their mouths shut.

I've worked in schools for a long time. Yes, kids do tell us everything. We've heard it all. We generally don't judge... we take it all with a grain of salt, and with some amusement. We hear about how you were still in your pajamas when you dropped them off at school today, We hear about how you let them stay up until midnight on the Fourth of July. We understand.

Even if your kid tells us something about his uncles' fistfight on the lawn after Thanksgiving dinner...  we're pretty understanding. It is important that kids feel safe to talk to their teachers about something that might have scared or upset them. We can even let you know that something has worried your child more than you thought it would, so you can keep a close eye on them yourself. Sometimes, for whatever reason, kids will keep a secret from their parents. They may be afraid of getting in trouble, or of making you mad. If something is bothering your child, or someone is hurting or threatening them... if your child is in some sort of danger that you don't know about... then you want them to have responsible adults at school that they feel safe to talk to.

That said, if a child tells us something that points to his being in real danger, then we are legally, and morally, obligated to call child protective services. One example I experienced is when, years ago, I worked in a child care center. A three-year-old boy came to school one morning and told us, repeatedly, in details, that while he'd been lying in bed the night before his dad had punched him in the face and given him a bloody nose. We called social services right away. It turned out, sadly, that the story was true... the father had Bipolar Disorder and had gotten angry when the little boy had been crying at bed time, so he'd gone in and punched him. The child's shocked mother had kicked the father out of the house, so she was trying to take care of things, and child protective services was actually able to help her and the little boy leave an abusive situation.

Now, what if there is something going on at home that you really don't want other people knowing about? Lets say you have a teenager who has been having some serious problems... you found drugs in her room, or she got arrested for shoplifting. There has been a lot of yelling going on in your house... you and your spouse yelling at your daughter, and yelling at each other about how to handle her. You don't think this is the sort of thing you want your younger child, 7-year-old Timmy, to be sharing with all of his classmates. So you tell him, "Timmy, this is our family business. Do not share it with anyone." Timmy doesn't really understand what is going on, but all the yelling has been scaring him. Refer to Paragraph 5 of this blog entry: When you tell your kids to keep that sort of secret, you teach them that they... and you... have something to be ashamed of. They learn that it is their responsibility to protect adults by keeping their secrets. They learn that nobody outside of the family is to be trusted. And think about this... if someone does hurt them, and tells them to keep it a secret, they will have already learned about keeping their mouths shut.

 Instead, you could even call your child's teacher and actually let them know what is going on... you don't have to talk about all of the details, but let the teacher know that your older daughter has been in some trouble and there has been a lot of tension and anger in the house. Then we... the people who spend 7 hours a day with Timmy at school... can keep an eye on him. If  he seems a little withdrawn, or has trouble focusing, we'll know that he may need a little extra patience and TLC. If he doesn't turn in his homework because you just didn't get a chance to help him with it, we'll understand why. And if he does need to talk, we'll be there to listen and comfort him.

If there is something going on in your house that is putting your children in danger... for example you are dealing with a substance addiction that is leaving you unable to take care of your kids, or someone in your home has been hurting others in the home... then as a parent, it is your job to put a stop to it. Instead of telling your child, "Don't tell anyone about this," you need to do something to keep your child safe. I am probably preaching to the choir here, because I know my readers well and most of them wouldn't be in this particular situation, so this is mostly a vent. But still... it is not fair to ask children to keep a secret that will allow them to continue to be in danger.

Okay. Rant over. Goodnight.