Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Huge Tiny Steps



We are so fortunate to have a small person in our German grade one class who is on the Autism Spectrum.  When he came to us in September, he was non-verbal with minimal communication.  He was not yet toilet trained. He had multiple melt-downs borne out of his frustration with us.  They lasted up to an hour.  But that was then. . . 

Fast forward to this week.  Our amazing little person has been learning sign language compliments of the wonderful Educational Assistant we just hired before Christmas. Yesterday he showed me how he can count  using sign up to six.  He matched the number of blocks with the number. He vocalized four and five.  On Friday he did a science experiment just like his class and signed hot water and cold water as he tested different temperatures.  He took part in gym and did everything his classmates did.  He listened to the story with his classmates. At the beginning of the day, he turned in his daily organizer and his home reading.  After a hiatus from the computer, he typed in his spelling words and transitioned from the computer with ease (this didn't happen in the past because he LOVES computers).  Melt downs?  What are those?  They are few and far between and still borne out of frustration if he can't make us understand.  And today, he used the toilet and proudly flushed!

I don't know where to begin. . .I love this little boy.  Everyday he brings joy to our office when he visits.  I love his big hugs and wide smile when he is excited.  Today, for fun, we did the little finger play, "Round and Round the garden" that ends with a tickle.  He LOVED IT and proceeded to do the finger play on my hand, squealing with delight when he made someone else happy.  Yesterday a little girl hurt her knee falling down.  She was being attended to and my guy came in the room and high-fived her, making her smile and feel better.  How is that for communication!

You know, because of his "disabilities" I could have said he should be in a district site for students with Autism.  I could have said he had no place in a second language program.  After all, shouldn't he learn English first?  And, because his melt downs were somewhat violent, shouldn't we keep all of us safe?  These are all questions asked by staff  and parents in our program.

But, I stand by my belief that children need to be included!  They need to have good role models.  They need to be stretched to their potential because we don't know what that is yet.  They need to be in a place where they can learn to communicate, whatever means turns out to be best way to communicate.  They need to be in a place where students will learn to go beyond tolerance for others who are not just like them, but where students will learn to accept the differences just as differences.  Not a big deal! Students in our school need to learn to communicate in ways he can so they can "talk" with him.  

Because he is in our school, students are learning sign language.  Students are learning that difference is okay and we need to work to help him learn the best way he can and it is okay if it isn't the same as them.  Would this little guy have come this far in a district site?  Maybe, but I doubt it.  We call these sites Interactions, but do these little people really interact with each other? I don't think so.

I fully believe he has come this far because of where he is.  He is included in his class.  He does some things on his own, but he is welcome at our school.  This is where he belongs! His EA today said, "I am not sure I am making a big difference for him" to which I replied, "Huge tiny steps.  That is what we are taking here."  She said, "Yah, I like that thought."  

Here's to the huge, tiny steps we are taking along side of our wonderful little person. 

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