Saturday, October 12, 2013

For the Kids

The daily acts of heroics inside the special school district system (SSD) cannot be fully credited because they encompass a range of activities from the sublime to the ridiculous. I’m a substitute teacher and a para-professional in ABA (Applied Behavior Analytics). Mostly, I’m there to help in any way I can. This is my first year. I am not trained as an educator. My business and art sensibilities skew my perceptions, probably. Yet, I can’t help thinking that my experiences this year have validated my view that how we treat the challenges within our educational systems is a true reflection of our success as a society as a whole.

Without giving too many details (and changing names to protect identities), the following vignettes are unique, routine, exceptional and mundane all at the same time. This composite picture is a tapestry of who we are. I will not offer diagnostics or clinical assessments. Just a few snapshots that might give you a picture.  
Students all have IEPs (Independent Educational Programs) designed to approach each student with a customized set of goals and measurable assessments along the way.

Alton is obsessed with the moving particles of paper and dust on the floor toward the crack beneath the classroom door and the hallway. This is a behavior the school hopes to change.

CBI trips (Community Based Initiatives) trips take kids (properly supervised of course) to field trips. It might be a Walmart or a Target. It might be the Zoo or an amusement or just a trip to a local park.

Van has issues with incontinence and his adult diapers may or may not be fully reliable on a CBI trip.

Current events are part of the curriculum and create opportunities for class participation. News 2 You worksheets and learning materials accommodate learning styles for non-verbal students. Visual choices help the teachers engage students.

Inspired by animation production workshops for children an art instructor encourages kids to create figures, creatures and themes in clay for animated stories.

Anthony is rocking back and forth much of the day. In moments of stress he will bite into his shirt until the frequency of this biting damages the cloth.

PBS programming, Sesame Street, School House Rock and a short list of educational videos are good filler but rarely hold student attention spans equally for more than 10 minute intervals.  

Jim is an eloper, which means his requests to make a trip to the water fountain could lead to his escaping the classroom (and maybe even the school grounds). This is counter- productive behavior but dealing with it daily means vigilant supervision and patience.

Breakfast and Lunch routines are different for every kid. Some can manage the cafeteria transactions on their own, others need help/need an escort, others need feeders to assist in consumption of simple meals. Of course, food allergies and obsessive compulsive disorders add additional dimensions.

The “boot camp” programs for physical exercise activities allow kids to assume leadership roles and maybe develop social skills.

Occupational Therapy, Jobs skills, Language, Audiology, Music Therapy and more may be a part of a student IEP.

The school rules are simple but reinforced frequently. Be Kind. Be Cooperative. Be peaceful. (All while sitting in your seat, keeping your hands to yourself and listening to the teacher.)

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