I decided to work part-time this summer at a Learning Center that specializes in working with kids and young adults with dual disabilities. The seven young men (ages 17 – 24) in the room where I work have a multiple of problems.
Many are Emotionally and Cognitively Impaired (EI & CI). A few have Autism (ASD) with ADHD, EI or CI. For the past three weeks I have learned so much by listening and asking questions and then observe and taking mental notes on how I can improve each day to help the young men with their daily tasks and education.
Many folks have asked me if this is harder than working with the young boys (ages 6 – 9) that I work with during the school year who are higher performing and mainstreamed (http://qualityg.blogspot.com/2006/12/autistic-students-staying-in-general.html)
It’s hard to say which is harder at this point because each person has different triggers and stages of development they are it with their disabilities. Some of the young men live in Group Homes and others with their families.
This is a great setting for my on-going learning. I smile a lot during the day because I am pleased that so many people work for small wages and give so much of their time and expertise in working with these children and young adults.
One lady asked me after a young man slapped her and grabbed a chair he was about to throw at her if I missed the working world. In all honesty I said “ I would rather be here than working with high level executives and officials who put greed and selfishness above humanity.” I also added “You should try managing a large number of Direct Reports, if you think these kids have issues, those working in the so-called real world have choices and still choose to make very bad decisions.”
July 16, 2007
I am learning so much working at the center this summer. All of the staff people are very giving and care deeply about the program. Observing, questioning and taking mental notes along with practical application is a great learning method.
What alarms me the most are the large numbers of children and young adults that attend this program. I can't imagine what it must have been like 20 years ago and longer when programs like this did not exist. I counted the buses this morning - 24! Not all are filled but even if there was just one child in each bus that is too much.
I remember seeing her as a baby and buying her a "Baby's First Christmas Bulb" when she was born. With some moves to other cities and raising a family of our own I only sparingly saw her parents over the years at a store or outing. Always saying we will get together but somehow it never happened.
As I entered her room I asked the teachers and workers if "AW" was here? I introduced myself and told them I had not seen her since she was a baby.
A very loving teacher walked me over to where she was and I looked down and a beautiful girl dressed in a yellow dress with yellow ribbons in her hair as she laid there in a bed. She looked the same to me as I saw her in her crib after she was born. I sat down next to her and whispered to her how we met and how happy I was to see her. She turned her head to acknowledge she knew someone was there and allowed me to continue our conversation without getting upset or startled at a new person.
I walked her off the bus in her wheelchair the next day and talked to her some more before school started. I plan on visiting her every day. What a great week. 23 years later and I have found an old friend.
One lesson I have learned over the years is to respect the Perimeter requirements of my ASD students. When they get upset to many people with good intentions rush to there aid and are often met with a big surprise - "WHACK" right across the face and then the fun really begins.
We had a Sub yesterday and it's like telling a child not to touch hot stove - WHACK across the face. I was able to get him in control and then take him to a safe spot where we sit before he goes home each day. Keep your distance when he says no a couple of times to different requests and do not Box him in at his table. He needs space and will get it if you go over the line.
Today we got a little (actually a lot) noisy surrounding his table. I was one of the culprits. I could see he (Whacker) was getting agitated and the next thing he got up walked over to me and slapped me on the shoulder shouting my name and then walked calmly back to his seat. He was trying to do what we have been working on and that is tell me (I can now say VOCALLY) when you start to get upset and I will correct the situation. Well, he told me and I cleared the pathway and lowered the noise and all was fine.
Following a few guidelines will result in the student to do what you initially requested (At least most of the time) and you will not look like Chuck Wepner (fight fans will know what I mean). See his sight at http://wepner.homestead.com/files/chuck.html.
TLC does not stand for Tender Loving Care in this post; it is the initials of the Center I’m working at this summer. However, TLC is what the staff, teachers and aides do for each and every child and you adult.
Each day brings a new learning experience by either observing, questioning and listening. Last week one of the boys who is not in my class but is on the bus route I am responsible for (getting on/off bus) had a seizure while we waited in the gym for his bus. At first he slid to the side of his wheelchair, as I sat him up he seemed fine (he does not speak) and I turned to wipe up the drool of another student I turned back and he was slumped over again and I immediately called for help and was assisted with in nanoseconds of my request.
I could feel his body and extremities going rigid very quickly. As I helped him up in his chair the lady assisting me began to squeeze the pressure points in his thumbs. Within a few minutes the seizure was over I asked her why the pressure on his thumbs? She told me his Mom is a therapist and this helps him relive the pressure of the seizure. In fact he was trying to squeeze his own thumbs during the seizure so he knows this will help himself.
His family was called and we made sure he was OK (Nurse arrived) before putting him on the bus. Since it was a 90-degree day we got ice packs and had his bus aide make sure he was cool on the way home.
Why is it all buses have heat for the kids in the winter but not air conditioning for the extremely warm days from May to September. I know most of the general ed kids don’t go to school in the summer but one bus to transport these children should be a requirement. I suppose the Basketball Floor needs refurnishing or the practice Football Field needs new Sod.
The young men in my room continue to provide daily learning experiences and fun. We had a bus trip to a park where we have a small garden that gets watered, two guys went Bowling and two others were taken on a Boat ride by the local yacht club where they were treated to pop, chips, hot hogs and treats. I knew they had a good time when one of the boys said a girl was driving by in a boat with a lot of hot babes. They were each given cowboy hat too – Whew Baby Now!
I now call them “The Magnificent Seven!”
GAPS & The Last Week
I am really going to miss the M7 when the Summer Program ends this week. It has been a wonderful experience that has taught me so much about the Different People who often go unnoticed or uncared about by the general society except for their parents and loved ones.
One the most useful things learned was the labeling of the four behaviors that most commonly cause outbursts by the ASD folks. I knew these prior to my learning but they were put in such a useful Acronym by David Angel (http://www.parentingautismchild.com/) a highly respected author on Autism from the United Kingdom. I "urge" you all to visit his site for a wealth of information on Autismm & Aspergers
A - Avoid Something
P - Pain
S - Sensory (Hyper/Hypo)
One of the young lady teachers for the summer who is going to get her own permanent job in the Fall asked me for advice. I just told her to "Be Humble & Be Confident."
We had our Pizza Party yesterday to celebrate the completion of our summer school program. Everyone ate their fill and we even had one large pizza left over. I am sorry to see it end but I know I can stop by and visit the class during the school year.
I really enjoyed the people I worked with and I am fortunate to be able to continue our friendship because we all work in the same school district.
Everyone gets a two week break before school begins after Labor Day.
For me I will be back at the same Elementary School hopefully continuing my work with Justin, Jeremy and the others as I continue my search for establishing socialization for the boys I have worked with for the past 3 years.
I look forward to working again with the teachers from last year (EB & AL) and also the new teachers that I will hopefully serve in the best capacity I know how.
To read my other posts on ASD simply click on the ASD Label below and they will all be pulled up in order - Thank You