Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Happy Autism Moment & Veteran's Day Cards

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I know I tend to talk about my plans/strategies but today is a day to share the happy moments that make me love my job. It's these moments that keep me coming back when I was in tears (literally) three days ago because things were so hard. I cherish these gems!

Autism is one of the disabilities that's always present in my classroom each year. Each kid has there own amount of severity and ability to interact with the world. My kids are all mild/moderate, so they can all talk, but they don't always choose to do it for social purposes. I have one kid who is one of the most loveable little guys I've ever met. He's in his own little world most of the time, but at the same time I know he hears me and knows/understands every single word we say. He just doesn't always show it. He's such a people pleaser and always does exactly what I ask, even when he doesn't want to. He is also very caring and always does little things to make me happy. He even gives me "monster points" on our Class Dojo every time I hand him my phone to give himself a point. He's done this so often that I've gone from 3 when I was testing the program out over the summer to 30 something now.

This Is the TurkeyAnyway... Friday was a special day for him. It's like the "fog" (as his mom puts it) just lifted and I saw the real boy I always knew was in there. I'm always mesmerized when I see him get happy or excited, but today took it to a whole new level. I almost cried. It all started with this book: This is the Turkey by Abby Levine

In the story, each member of the family arrives and brings something to share for Thanksgiving dinner. Then as the mom is carrying the turkey from the kitchen to the dinner table she trips and the turkey goes flying. It lands in the fish tank and they yell "YIKES!" In the end they decide they have each other, and all the side dishes, so that's all that matters. So my little guy was laughing hysterically at the turkey flying into the fish tank! He could NOT stop giggling! He even asked me to go back a page so he could look at the turkey flying again. This in itself is a big deal for him! His sentences don't even make sense most of the time, and he was speaking perfectly clearly and asking appropriate questions. I was already impressed...then it got better!

After storytime every day, we switch to math time. My little guy was still giggling for 10 whole minutes! I've never once seen him giggle like that for more than a minute at the very most. I've seen him go into his happy "stimming" motions and noises, but never the full blown happy little kid giggle that I saw today. We started math and I'll be honest, I gave them all their math pages and instructions, then ignored the rest of the class. I was so excited about this moment that I wanted to cherish every second and hope it would encourage it to happen again. He was cracking jokes making eye contact, staying on task and at one point he did something goofy and then said "I'm pretending!" Do you have any idea how huge it is for a kid with autism to pretend?!?! Then we went outside for a break on the playground and he was playing tag! Not the fake version of tag that he normally plays, but the real version where he really chased them and made eye contact to say "you're it!" This was mesmerizing for me to watch. I may have had a glistening tear floating in my eye. When he first started at our school he just paced back and forth and rocked while making noises to himself. Today, he was really playing with friends, without prompting. Such a happy sight!

Today my Kinder kids published their first piece of writing on the computers. It was the most successful set I've made with such a young group of kids. I was really impressed. The kids were so proud of their work that they posted them on our whiteboard with magnets. Totally their idea, not mine, but I was all for it. I forgot to take a picture on my way out, but I can show you next week. We also wrote letters to the veterans. Since I have such young kids, I had the kids tell me what we should say and I wrote it on the board. Then the kids copied the letters. I was really impressed by their penmanship and how much it has improved since the beginning of the year! Plus the pictures are pretty darn cute too!
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