Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Other Job

I don't write a lot about my day job here, because I feel funny about it. I have a hard enough time speaking for myself, let alone the kiddos I work with who have a more difficult time speaking at all. Most of the kids I work with have Autism, and many of them are mostly non-verbal. Back in late January we got a new student, a girl. She's "my student", in that I work primarily with her. I help her get through her day, transitioning her from her solitary work station to a few group acitivities, to recess, etc. She'll be twelve in August, and she has the most beautiful, sweet smile you've ever seen. She's a typical "tween" in as much as she doesn't like hearing the word "no". She hums the same three notes when she's agitated, and she's as hormonal as all get out. Poor kid. Hers are coming on, my are leaving, and together we're quite a stew. But she trusts me, and I trust her, and she pulls on my heart and creeps into my thoughts when I'm cooking dinner for my family, and I'm always trying to figure out new ways to help her communicate her frustration without hurting me, or more importantly, herself. We've made some good strides since those first somewhat frantic days. To be honest, I was really sort of scared to work with her because she is nearly as tall as I am, and I know what those hormones are capable of doing, having gone through puberty myself. Granted, it was a long time ago, but I remember distinctly how crazy it made me feel to go from laughing to crying in the space of 10 seconds. Her first days were really intense, but since then, it's calmed down so much. She's a really hard worker, she's great at following her schedule, AND she's just a cool kid. She loves music, and lately has been testing her voice by singing. I think she knows we love it. She won't do it when asked, but when we're not paying close attention, she'll make sure we're within hearing range before she launches into her repertoire.

It began with the "namaste" song from the yoga video we watch almost daily. When I figured out that's what she was singing, I started singing it along with her. She let me (the first time) because I think she knew she had reached me, but since then she doesn't like it so much when I sing along. I get the same thing at home with JH! Everyone's a critic. Anyway, since then, she's expanded to a couple hits from the 80's and hearing her sing them is THE BEST. She has a beautiful voice. She's on pitch, and while she doesn't have the words, she has most of the vowel sounds, and you can definitely tell what she's singing. Early this week, she hopped on the swing in our classroom and started belting out "Don't You Want Me Baby", and yesterday it was "Saved By Zero". The first one is the one she sings the most, and I wake up with it going through my head.

My not-so-secret mission is to take her up to the music room someday and let her play on the keyboard.

In the meantime, over spring break I'm going to make a cd of hits from the '80's and when we get back, there is going to be a dance party in our room.


Melissa said...

I love it Anne...she really does trust and cherish you. You can tell by the way she looks for you when you leave and relaxs when you are near. You guys are so good for each other and I had no doubts when we assigned you to her! Keep up the great work with her! Love you!

sarah said...

I love it. I have two autistic sons. They are my heart...I swear these kids have a way of touching a person like noone else. Sounds like there is a major trust there. GOOD JOB!!!!!! You have my attention with this story. It just touches me everytime I hear, read people are talking about people with autism.. We still hear our oldest being called a freak..drives me insane. he has aspergers. the other is dx with ppd-nos

anniemcq said...

Melissa: THANK YOU! I was so nervous to work with her, not because of her but because I had been out of the room for most of the year and wasn't sure of myself. She's just such a great kid, and it excites me so much to see how well she's doing. Plus: she's just one more reason I love coming to work!

Sarah: First of all, I'm so glad that this story touched you. Your sons sound amazing and I would love to meet them. Secondly, I've learned from comments about my own son, who has a really rare syndrome (klippel-trenaunay syndrome) that some people are just missing out. I know how it stabs at your heart when people make comments that your child can hear and process. Luckily, my boy has confidence to burn and knows his own worth. Still, there are times when I think a public bitch-slapping might feel reeeeeaaaaally good to administer. But for every moment I spend seething with anger about some stupid person's comment, I realize that's a moment I'm missing out loving and laughing with my boy. Give your boys a big ol' hug from me.