I can’t remember the last time he threw an under the table hissy fit. It’s Wednesday and today was the first time I saw any amount of resistance from him to come to the meeting area (and the situation was happily defused without bribery in a matter of seconds with minimal interruption to the class). I’ve been able to sit with him and teach him to color code his writing papers so he can organize his work. (This assumes he’s actually writing something past one letter. Yes, he is, as a matter of fact: an all about book about fish.)
Even though the reality of Donald’s academics is that they are still two years below grade level, he is definitely making progress. He is doing better with sight words, is realizing that yes, he can write, and has moved light years in his speech. (Yesterday, when he got to the classroom, he informed me with solid eye contact that, “Mr. Foteah, my mom is waiting for you downstairs.” Quite a departure from his formerly disjointed syntax).
I hesitate to helicopter myself onto an aircraft carrier to stand next to George W. Bush and declare “Mission Accomplished” right now, but with Donald finally learning to manage himself in the classroom, I am able to better explore another front in my classroom with another particularly intriguing child who, in the last few weeks, has shown some very curious regression.
I haven’t yet introduced you to Richard. He’s most distinguished physically by his unique hairstyle, his lanky limbs, and his big smile. At times his speech is difficult to understand, and, admittedly, it took me a while to understand his cadence and intonation. He is sharp in math and reads better than anyone in the class.
Richard requires tactile input more than any child I’ve ever known (and this is not just because I’m more aware now than before). He often taps the desk, plays with his pencil, puts his hands in his desk, picks at his fingers, touches other kids, slinks across the floor, and slides floppy-footed down the stairs.
In the last few weeks, I’m noticing that he is more disengaged from academics than usual. He is much more engaged in the above things, though, and I’m concerned. He has fallen more than once in the classroom and has slipped on the stairs. He seems to be having trouble restraining himself from touching other kids’ arms.
As the patterns have developed, I’ve stepped back to observe this a bit more objectively than I can when my anger is boiling over him shoving through a group of kids without saying “Excuse me.” I’ve got a curious case on my hands, and I’m not exactly sure how to handle it.
My biggest worry is how he’s walking on the stairs. Since he seemingly has so little control over his body, I’ve had to attempt to reteach him how to walk on stairs. When my para is with the class, Richard walks in the back with her so she can remind him to hold the railing a certain way and alternate his feet when climbing or descending. If she’s not there, he’s in the front with me (at the expense of the increasingly frustrated line leaders and other students who complain that he doesn’t belong in the front). I find myself repeating my early-year mantra to the kids: “Everyone gets what they need.”
I will talk with the occupational therapist about working with him on walking. Another next step is to bring mommy in for a talk to see what’s going on and what may be spurring this confusing development. She’s a reasonable woman who responds to me and my para and cares about Richard but may be at a loss with him.
I may be moving toward that same place, so if you’ve got any thoughts or resources, please share them!