Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sometimes I have to be hit over the head...

I have this little child in my room, who from day 1 of school has challenged me. For 110 days of kindergarten I treated this child has a behavior problem. I worked on individual behavior plans, I met with the parents multiple times, I ignored the negative, I praised the positive, when that didn't work, I sat this child alone and focused on keeping the child and the rest of the class safe (the behavior could be physical).

For many of these 110 days there was this thing poking the back of my brain... "This behavior is so impulsive." "Is this behavior? It seems like a control-issue." "What am I missing?"

Then, as I was preparing paperwork so I could get help from outside the classroom, it dawned on me that this child shows signs of autism. DISCLAIMER: I know little about autism. I have only worked with one child who was diagnosed with autism and it was during my student teaching when I really had no idea what I was doing.

Since this moment, this ah-ha-MAYBE-this-can-help-explain moment, things have changed dramatically. I approach this child the way I learned to approach the other child with autism. I make sure his schedule doesn't change, and when it does, I prepare him. I allow him to ask the many questions about what comes next (the ones that used to drive me nuts) and patiently answer. I try to provide him with a physical environment with low stimuli, or as low possible. When I can tell he needs a break, I send him to his desk for a breather and he has rubber bands that he can pull on to help calm down. This child is happier. I am happier.

I don't know if this child is on the spectrum, but right now, as I assume he is, life is better.


jwg said...

Any chance the parents will agree to an eval? If so, will they understand that it needs to be done by a psychiatrist who knows what to look for? It really can't be done by the usual in-school team. And the school district has to pay for it.

splatypus said...

jwg - yep, everyone is on board with what they need to do. I was reflecting more on my hunch on what might be going on, and what is working. I wish I had realized this 100 days ago! Thanks for your comment.

organized chaos said...

I love that you aren't necessarily worried about whether or not he has this label- you're more focused on how to reflect your teaching to best meet his needs. So much of working with special ed, or any kid at all, it's not about the official "label" but what the individual child needs.

There is a difference between an educational diagnosis and a medical diagnosis. Our in-school team, which includes a psychologist, is able to find a child eligible for autism without a medical diagnosis. In fact, the school can even refuse services for a child with a medical diagnosis of autism if the child is performing on grade level. There is that difference between medical and educational diagnosis. Whether or not this is good is debatable, but it's the process we work under.