Today I was a substitute teacher in two Special Education "Adaptive P.E." classes. As the name says, it's Physical Exercise that has been adapted for special needs students. While we waited for all the students to arrive, the teacher read three stories. One of the stories was from David Shannon, Duck on a Bike. It was very sweet and had been read so much that the pages were falling out. I enjoyed David Shannon's illustrations and the story had a nice twist of what barnyard animals might be thinking when they see a duck riding a bike. Very cute.
These special needs children were deep in the autism spectrum: some had difficulty speaking, others couldn't stop talking; one was screaming (perhaps because I was new and outside their routine?) A couple a children had trouble focusing on who was talking; they all lacked impulse control. These beautiful children were in their own world with three adults -- caring, strong, and courageous adults, who were helping them learn to do routine tasks in and out of the classroom. I said brave and supportive adults, because they had to be to face such challenges five days a week. Of course, it's their job, but you and I both know there are easier ways to earn a living. I know that I would be very thankful for the conscientious and determined care these teachers and aides provide to these challenging children. I was glad I could come and help out for a couple of hours.
In the fenced and gated kindergarten playground, we played circle games such as run around the circle and back again, beat on the tambourine, throw the bean bag frogs into the tambourine on the ground, and toss the ball to each other. After each child took their turn, we all applauded. After our circle games, we walked three laps on the path around the play ground and ball field. I was one of four adults constantly counting our charges and enjoying out time outside. One little girl latched on to me and we "hug-walked" our way around the field -- it was an uncomfortable and yet wonderful way to walk!
The second class went to an awards ceremony before their P.E. time. I sat and watched as each teacher recognized and applauded some of their students' successes, such as:
--- Improvement in Spelling and Vocabulary
--- Interest and good work in Science (or Art or Math)
--- Improvement in Math (or Reading or Spelling)
--- Kindness and Caring
--- Support of the Anti-Bullying campaign
--- Love of Reading (or Writing or Math)
--- Being a Good Citizen
--- Being there every day (Good Attendance)
It was heartwarming to see the children walking up to shake their teacher's and principal's hands, then and proudly holding up their certificates for their parents to take pictures. (I remember how proud and honored my own child was to be named the "Scholar of the Week" in Mr. Stack's 5th grade class.) The fifth graders were told of the "Promotion Ceremony" coming on June 6th and how proud the principal and their parents will be on that day. It was a wonderful awards ceremony.
Then we went outside for the second class to do our three lap walk around the playground and ball field. This time one boy linked arms with me and we walked most of the way together -- another supportive and trusting gesture that also warmed me. Those moments make all the hard work meaningful.
And then it was over and I returned home to my house in "remodeling disarray." And to my youngest sweet cat who needed her meds and to be handfed as she recoveres from 90 minutes of stitching to repair her tummy and abdomen. I haven't had much luck this year with my pets -- but they've all survived thanks to modern (and expensive) veterinarian care -- thank goodness and thank the teachers who made it all possible.
Tags: Special needs, special education, challenging behavior, autism spectrum, autistic behavior, classes, awards, Physical Education, Adaptive P.E., path walking, circle games, ball fields.