Schools are a complicated place. Every year my son spends around 1,260 hours of his waking hours at school, this equates to about 28% of his year (thanks to my husband for that math).
While teachers make up a large majority of the staff in a school – there are also custodians, bus drivers, teaching associates, behavioral interventionists, cooks, coaches, administrators, librarians, nurses, counselors, administrators, secretaries, and liaison officers (just to name a few) -a community of people working with our children.
One thing is often missing…sharing of information about our ‘special’ children with everyone.
At the beginning of this school year I made a decision to get Tucker’s teachers in one room. I invited not only his ‘regular’ classroom teachers, but also his ‘special’ teachers – art, family and consumer science, computer application, and physical education. I bought them lunch and told them about Tucker. I shared stories of things that set him off, told them about what works, but most of all, to tell them that I am part of the team. I had the opportunity to reach out and let them know that they should contact me immediately if something went (or was going) awry. I have been his mother for 12 years – trust me, I know what works and what doesn’t.
Last week I came to the conclusion that this, in fact, was a great idea – but I forgot about all of the other people that come into his life. His larger educational community. Day # 59 – Pause, Revisited is all about troubles on a bus – and a teacher who came to his rescue. Why? She knew just enough about him – she never had him in class, but was part of his community.
He was in a bit of a squabble last week with another boy. We have tried to steer Tucker clear of this boy – because he’s not a good influence. This is especially difficult for me because I believe that children are a product of their environment, so our job is to care for, provide guidance to, and show love to all people (especially children). However, Tucker is just unable to recognize these behaviors as ‘socially unacceptable,’ so he (to fit in) takes on the behaviors and actions of whoever he is around (See Day #42 The Trouble With Peers and Day #43 My Tape Recorder).
He was assigned to lunch detention with this other boy. This presents two rather significant issues.
1. We need to keep him away from this other boy. This is plain and simple. They were assigned to lunch detention to help ‘work it.’ What the behavioral interventionist didn’t understand was that he CANNOT be with this boy. We DO NOT want them to work it out. He learns behaviors by practice – over and over and over again. Yes, we control much of his environment. Yes, this ‘over and over’ practice leads him to a better understanding of the world around him.
2. Lunch detention? This is NOT a good idea. NOT A GOOD IDEA. Lunch time is sensory overload at its worst – smells, lights, people, and noise. All of it. He needs to be at lunch. He loves lunch detention. He gets to eat in a room, by himself – and just read his book when he’s finished. This is not helpful to what he needs. He needs to be in lunch. Part of our goal is to not separate him from the world – but to give him supportive opportunities to learn about how to cope and deal with the overload he experiences.
This is the only way he will be successful in the world – by this ‘forceful, supported uncomfortableness.’
We force him to be in those situations.
He is uncomfortable.
We support him by teaching him how to manage the overload.
So, what’s my point in all of this? Helping Tucker become all he can will take support from everyone in his community. Not just his teachers, everyone. The behavioral interventionist followed a plan and a system for dealing with misbehavior. She did her job – but not what was best for Tucker. Why? Because she’s in his community, but not part of his community.
It’s not just Tucker or the spectrum though – all people should work to understand all of the children in their community. Prerequisite for working in a school? The love and understanding of ALL children –
children with cerebral palsy
children with ADD/ADHD
children with spina bifida
children with depression
I would love for everyone in that building, everyone in all the buildings to know about Tucker. ALL OF THEM. Share his IEP, let me speak to everyone he may come into contact with, send out an email, I don’t care. I want them all to know – so that every moment, every person can come to understand who Tucker is and what he needs to be successful.
Let’s build it – an educational community of understanding. Who’s with me?