Every day dawns with a new challenge for me. There is never a dull day in my life. I am a mother of a young man with Autism and I also work as para educator in a self contained class that serves students with disabilities, who have severe behavior issues. The challenging behaviors range from very mild to extremely difficult.
As I play the role of a parent at home and as an educator at school, I have to flip sides to fit into the role that I assume. The advantage for me is, with my parent instinct, the effective behavior plan in place, and the support I get in my class, I am able to understand the students better, relate to them well, catch cues that may lead to a negative behavior and am able to deal with and redirect them to achieve desirable behavior.
Community trips from school can be pleasurable or challenging. While in the community, we have to grab all possible opportunities to teach the students to be successful and keep them and everything around them safe. When I go out in the community with my students, I have to make sure my students are learning to have good behavior that is accepted in the community and to learn community living skills to be successful when they grow older.
I hold my student’s hand while in the community to keep a close proximity to my student so I can react swiftly when a behavior occurs. The public may not understand why I hold hands with my students (12-14 year olds) in public. Sometimes what I and my team do to keep our students and those around safe can be viewed by the public differently. As a parent, I can understand what others may see and infer. I believe in freedom of speech but I would encourage anyone to ask us question(s) before inferring anything awful.
Since I am a parent of a boy with Autism, I always keep my eyes and ears open when I am in the community. I have stood up to help 2 young women with disability when they were left unattended in a mall few years ago. If that can happen to those two girls, it can happen to anyone with disability. As parent and as a member of this community, I make sure individuals with disability are treated with respect and are kept safe.
This has proved to be helpful to me to be a better educator as I know what public will observe and assess me when we are in the community. Every community trip is important for my students and is important to me as well because I am being evaluated by the community.
I am sure everyone is aware of this and is doing their best, when some of them fail to do their best, the community should let their voice be heard.
By Chitra Vijayakumar
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.