I was carrying “A” to the time-out room, he was trying to bite other students. One of the other teacher’s aides had his legs. We were doing a side restraint, placing “A” in a hugging ‘self’ side position as this was the latest and safest way for children to be restrained. It was supposed to calm them… “A” turned his head and shot a ball of spit directly between my eyes. This kid was talented! He was a phenomenal spitter! Accurate. It was my 11th day working with him.
The first day I met “A” I was told he was a non-verbal autistic boy. “A” was nine years old. He liked to bite, spit, and grab your shirt at the neck and twist. (Great, I was going to be strangled and bit to death by a nine-year-old. Note to self; wear v-neck tee shirts.) “A” was in Mr. P’s class as Mr. P was a gifted teacher with the children no one else could handle. (Trust me, I liked Mr. P. but gifted he was not.) Goal… Mrs. O’s class, that was “A’s” grade level.
“A” was the most beautiful child I had ever seen. He looked like he should be on canvas, painted as an angel. I am not kidding, he was angelic looking. He whimpered when he first met me. I told him that I was his friend and I would never touch him unless I asked and I always did. Every time I said “A” I need to touch you now because ‘biting/spitting/ strangling/’ is not OK.
“A” could be just naughty because he was all boy. Secretly, I liked that he showed off his boy-ness once in awhile, letting the autism take the back burner while he played a prank or wouldn’t listen to direction and did his own thing. Yes, sometimes he was just “A,” not autistic “A.”
I read to him often, but if I stopped he’d be mumbling the words with me. I slowly figured out he was verbal! I was so excited! I finally got him into a computer room for his math lessons. He did not like chalk, and he didn’t care for pencils, but he liked the computer keys… he knew math! We began doing all his math assignments on one of the computers in the school.
He loved to swim. As a class, we often went to the high school to use the pool on Fridays. Of course, “A” would never get out of the pool when it was time to go. Oh, how the principal would chase “A”… eventually, I’d hold up his snack bag, and “A” would come to me, tiring of the chase from the principal. I would just look at the principal and shake my head. I told the principal every week, he just needs a little extra time to adjust to leaving, we need an 8-minute warning so he can count down the minutes. (To me this was an easy concept, but it was hard to get my point across until the principal finally caved and would let me give “A” an eight-minute warning.)
I need to thank the French for their beautiful words, “au revoir.” Every day when the final bell rang and “A” was leaving for the day, I would say “au revoir” to him. At first, this would startle him, he was curious about these words. Eventually, he would wait until I said them after the final bell rang. He would smile and (I may get a little eye contact) then off he’d go. One day, right before Thanksgiving break, he stopped, turned around and he said it back to me! He said it back!!!
I started to laugh! I felt sheer joy! Mrs. O! Guess who is coming to class?
(To be continued.)