Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Specialest of the Special

There are times when I find myself stunned by what special education teachers deal with on a daily basis. You have just got to have a special kind of patience to voluntarily take on that job, y’all…I often marvel that anybody is willing – let alone eager – to deal with what-all goes on in those classrooms.

Last week, Captain Adventure bit his teacher. Bit! His! Teacher!

Now, my first reaction was the usual parental reaction to such things, which was to shriek incoherently, swallow my own tongue, run in circles flapping my arms like a chicken, demand of everybody he comes in contact with if they had any children around who bit because Obviously!, my Widdle Precious would neeeeeever do such a thing (snort!)…and then I remembered which kid this was and went straight into a state of rather great surprised-but-not-surprised.

He hasn’t tried to bite anyone around here (that I know of) for months.

Of course, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he doesn’t bite me anymore because I head him off waaaaaaay before he actually sinks his chompers into me. I see it coming before he even opens his mouth for an attempt – because I’m his mother, which in this case means the person most likely to be bitten / kicked / pinched / scratched by a furious little Captain.

It’s lovely being the “safe” adult, really it is.

BUT, since it’s my lot in life, I’ve learned to see the signs of impending violence and cut him off – diverting his behavior before it begins. If you catch it early enough, nobody will ever know we were ten minutes from a Class A1 Meltdown.

So I was immediately thinking about what signs we might have missed that he was going to have That kind of day, and running through the last 48 hours of his little life looking for where he’d had too much sugar, not enough sleep, been frustrated by something big, etc. etc. etc., when it suddenly struck me how weird it all was.

My son, my five year old, kindergarten-attending son, had sunk his teeth into his teacher’s leg. If one of my typically-developing daughters had done that to her kindergarten teacher? I’m pretty sure there would have been a fair amount of hysteria on all parts. There would have been phone calls and conferences, maybe a few days of suspension, some referrals to anger management therapists specializing in overly aggressive five year olds…

But this…is a special needs classroom. Just like me, his teacher wasn’t freaking out because she had been bitten – she was looking for his motivation for doing so, and incentives that would prevent him from doing it again. Her email wasn’t accusatory in any way – it was like that of a coworker saying, “Weirdest thing happened today, what do you think we can do about it?”

You know…I deal with an autistic kid every day because, well, I had a baby and some time went by and we started noticing weird things and then there was a lot of huff and bother and expense and then we got the diagnosis and now here we are.

I certainly didn’t sit down and say, “You know what I want? A kid on the spectrum. That’d be awesome! Dealing with temper tantrums loooooong after you expect that part to be over, still having to buy diapers five years later, having a kid who just doesn’t ‘grok’ social interactions, having to carry my five year old through the parking lot because he’s still like a toddler when it comes to ‘safety and you’…my gosh, the list of stuff that boils down to ‘having a kid who is perpetually about two years old no matter how big he gets’ just never ends! C’mon, it’ll be great!!”

These saints who work with him every day at school, his teachers and therapists and aides and more therapists and more aides by choice…just really amaze me.

Especially since they often tell me no, no, you have no idea – Captain is one of the EASIEST little guys I’ve ever worked with…

Holy smokes. I find him…challenging. Granted I’m comparing him to my ‘typically developing’ daughters (which is arguably very unfair of me), but I have days when I look at him and think, couldn’t you just, I dunno, snap out of it, already?!

And these teachers and aides and therapists, they put a smile on their faces every day and deal with him and his classmates, with all their wild assortment of oddities – ranging from the relatively ‘so what’ like inappropriate singing or disrobing during class (ahem, yes, they had a stripper in his last class…they couldn’t keep clothes on that little boy with Super Glue and a staple gun…) to children who will gnaw their own fingers bloody, or slam their heads into walls until their skulls crack (!!), or quite intentionally out of pure aggression attack other people for no apparent reason whatsoever.

We had one of those last year, too, in a different class (whew). For that little girl, the special needs immersion was supposed to be her first step to mainstreaming…she wasn’t anywhere near ready and had to be pulled out only a few weeks in after she took a chair and threw it –hard – at the teacher’s head. No reason. No real anger at the teacher. Just a general desire to hurt somebody…oh look! A somebody! {THWAK!!!}

And that teacher came right on back to the classroom, lump on her head still big and obvious. Kept smiling. Kept working with these children, with their varying levels of need. Kept hoping, sometimes against all scientific evidence, that their little clients were about to have a breakthrough – major or minor, didn’t matter.

Dealing with just one autistic child is enough for me. Just one set of hopes and dreams, of triumphs and failures, of progress and regression, oh-oh-oh, he’s got it, he’s TOTALLY go-…oh…never mind, he don’t got it…

I kind of have to hang tough on this deal. He’s my baby, and I love him, and all those other parent-y things.

They don’t. They are free at any time to say, “You know what? This bites. Literally. I’m going to do something else, something that doesn’t involve changing poopy diapers on a seven year old or being bitten by a teenager!”

Not to mention getting away from all of us crazy parents, who have decided that this thing our best friend’s uncle’s cousin’s coworker saw on the Internet is the thing and we want, nay, DEMAND!, that it be implemented !immediately! in Precious Poopsie’s classroom. RIGHT NOW! (And also, by the way, we want the State to pay for it. And if not the State, then, uh, we’re OK with you just sort of…making it happen…)

Seriously, sometimes? It isn’t the kids I think are going to drive away these wonderful people – it’s us.

But…they don’t flee. They stay. They help our children and hold our hands and put up with all our assorted Crazy and don’t make us feel guilty when our kid bites them and in fact talk us down off a fence if we get all hysterical about it.

They are among the specialest of the special.

I am so grateful to them for all they do I can’t find a single word to really express it.

Bless them, one and all. I don’t know what I’d do without them.


ML said...

Well no wonder I thought you're special...only a special person can raise a special kid.

Steph B said...

That is wonderful. I don't have the patience to teach in a mainstream classroom, let alone special needs, so I'm with you in feeling rather awed by the folks who do. Glad that you have such wonderful people to help the Captain along.

And you know what? Sometimes I want to bite someone too. I'm just too afraid of the legal repercussions to follow through on the urge. Sucks being a grown-up.