It is September and I receive a phone call from the school board offering me a position to assist with the integration of a five year old boy into the kindergarten classroom. He is part of the Autistic Spectrum, as he was diagnosed autistic at the young age of 2, and is currently experiencing an emotional and physiological meltdown with this transition. I willingly accept the post and am off to the school.
After meeting with the principal and resource team to become aware of the behavior challenges that were being experienced I was directed to his classroom where I was to enter and observe this little child that I will call Billy. Of course as I entered the classroom all the children seated at their work stations looked in my direction to see this new person entering, that is all, but one tiny blond boy who seemed to be totally fixated on blocks on the table in front of him.
The teacher then announced to the children that time was up and directed the children to be advancing to the next work station. Billy sat quietly as if the teacher had not made any announcement and showed no interest or desire to be participating in any transition. At one point he lowered his head and placed his tiny hands on his ears, a clear indication that the surrounding movements of chairs and classroom activity during this time had become overwhelming.
One of Billy’s classmates touched him and indicated that he had to move to the other table. It was very clear to see that Billy did not like to be touched as his body tensed up. Then as five year old`s do, before anyone could intervene the other child again, loudly instructed Billy to move to the other table with a slight push. Well it didn’t take long to witness the incredible behavior change of this angelic looking child. It was an outburst of emotion with some screams, cries and hands swinging the blocks in all directions from the table.
As I approached (still a complete stranger to him) he lashed out to hit the other child. I was instructed to remove him from the class in fear that other children would become frightened or hurt. Because he was tiny it was not so challenging for me to lift from behind, his hands crossed in front of him and remove him to a quiet nice private little setting not far from the classroom.
I sat Billy down on the nice comfy chair in the quiet room. He was very tense, throwing his head back (which is why he was in a comfortable cushioned seat). I started to softly hum a song and gently message his fingers one at a time slowly, it didn’t take long for me to feel the tightness fade. I gazed upon this beautiful child’s face and I thought about how sensitive I am to chewing sounds and tried to imagine what it would be like to live in his world, a world where most sounds, touches, tastes, smells not only sparked a great sensitivity but festered an anger due to being incapable of voicing his feelings and having people truly understand them. Of how the slightest transition, difference in a daily routine, seeing a new face can cause so much distress.
Yes, and here he was, five years old not just walking into a new big building, surrounded by so many never seen before big people, many excited running, laughing, screaming children and moms and dads leaving. There was just too much stimulation for this young mind, this beautiful child to deal with.
I was very fortunate to be part of a truly dedicated and caring team. We found out all of his likes and yes, there were many challenging days, which eventually got fewer and fewer. Billy in no time, would walk down the halls and say hi to people. He would participate in so many activities all in his ways, but he fully co-operated and became a positive ray of sunshine. He went from not talking to non stop talking.
Together as a team, with any new event, we would ensure that he was made aware in advance and well prepared him for them…. he taught us all so much about life, challenges, and to stop for a moment and enjoy the peace of our own world too.
I believe that these very gifted children, just need us all to watch them, get to know them and their world, understand, love them, make them feel secure and then the sky is the limit to their success.
It was and still is my pleasure that these children allow me to be a part of their very special lives.
By Mary M. Rowan
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.