I got a text message on Friday from one of our educational assistants. This isn't unusual. If they need a break or some help, they have texted me from time to time. But this text was different. This was a series of three videos of one of our exceptional kiddos. The student in the video is one of my guys with Tourette Syndrome.
This is not his only challenge but he has some significant issues with loud sounds. Because of this in the past two years, he has always done his daly physical activity separate for his class. We have invited him to take part on many, many occasions but he says, "No thanks" and we respect his choice. He still does exercises but this past Friday was different.
We have started to prepare him for his transition to next year's class by having him visit three times per week. Before his visit, we prepared the children and helped them understand what it meant for this student to have Tourette Syndrome and anxiety. They asked some poignant questions and shared how they had also had periods of anxiety and how it made them feel. They were so understanding and when they saw him Friday, they welcomed him as a long lost friend. He warmed to the welcome.
When it was time to go to the class, they were having gym time. The EA was worried , but our guy headed back to class where I was observing a young student teacher. I asked him if he was done visiting, he said, "No, I just need my stupid headphones." He collected his headphones ( we have headphones available for all students who need quiet and less distraction in the class) and headed back. He put them on and went into the gym. He stood by the wall for a time while the students played a skittle game with rolling balls. Then he started kicking the balls back to the others. Not but a short time later, he was moving to the middle and playing the game. I had to look twice at the video because I wasn't sure this would ever happen.
We were talking later in the staffroom and many staff were discussing what a change they have seen in this student. It wasn't but a year ago that he spent many days screaming his fears and needs and we could not understand them. Now with time and patience on our part, we have learned what causes his pain and what we can do to alleviate this pain. As a staff, we have learned not to judge this child, but to understand his needs. Did this boy have to change? No, it was up to the grown ups to make the necessary changes. We needed to understand. We needed to take a second look at our understanding.
If we hadn't done so, there is no telling where this little person would be. But now, we are so excited as to where he will be with compassion, understanding and intentional planning for his needs.