Thursday, November 18, 2010

Our Upside Down Day

Every once in awhile we have an upside down day at school.  It isn't intentional, it just happens that way. I knew right off the mark today that this was going to be "one of those" days.

Before the students arrived I had to inform my staff of seven educational assistants that our newest addition - "Fred" - might be apprehended by the Children's Aid Society because the brother who looked after him between 2pm til 10pm while their single dad worked had been placed into hospital due to having a psychotic episode. Both of Fred's older brothers have schizophrenia - talk about a tough family situation.

Then the students started to arrive. We had to call "Michael" by the name "Andrew" all day (lol) due to him bringing the wrong backpack to school. He is very difficult to manage so he doesn't live with his family - he lives in a group home instead with "Andrew" and the mixup was made while they were boarding special vans to school. No problem - one phone call - their lunches were both the same, no medications involved so on with the day.

Then around 11:20am I had to ask another student -"Lucy" - to back away from her computer as she wasn't following instructions and when I had tried all other options to encourage compliance we had to pull her chair back from the computer. Well the obscenities flew and my sweater almost flew off my back but within about 5 minutes she calmed down and went on to another activity successfully. 

A bit later an EA was in the washroom with "Albert" when Albert began to sway on his feet and almost passed out. He brought him out of the washroom and sat him in a chair. Albert's temperature and heartrate went through the roof so we laid him on a gym mat, removed his shirt and shoes, gave him a cool sponge bath and I called mom to come to the school. This is the boy pictured above - he loves to tap tupperware on the floor and pass it back and forth through a doorway. He is on the move constantly and must burn a trillion calories a day. But he laid still on the mat, his breathing laboured and mom arrived right away. His pulse slowed down and he cooled down but we urged mom to get him checked out by a doctor. Albert is non-verbal so can't express how he feels. I think he may have been having a hyperglycemic reaction.

That should be enough but we're not done yet! While we were attending to Albert another student - Michael/Andrew was left unattended while using a computer.  Michael has a habit of biting the wires off computer mice so hasn't been allowed on a computer for two months.  Well, today his occupational therapist had brought us a wireless mouse and keyboard to try. While using the wireless mouse Michael did attempt to bite the wires but of course there was nothing to bite.  However, when left on his own for a minute he was able to "disable" the mouse by smashing it - hey - he's a great problem-solver:)

So that was my upside down day. We met as a team at the end of the day to debrief and brainstorm for ideas to manage these situations better in the future. And we had a good laugh because when you work with students who have autism everyday can be an upside down day and we just take it in stride and try to adapt the environment and students' programs to resolve issues as they come up. Every day is a fresh start for everyone and hey - we have to see the humorous side of things or we'd go starkers!  We come back everday because we are driven by deep compassion and love and a desire to support students who need a little, sometimes a lot, of patience and understanding.

But then, don't we all??


  1. Jane, do you teach children with Autism or special needs in their own class, or are they mainstreamed like all children with special needs here? I'm just reading about your day and thinking to myself, if my nephew could be in a classroom like yours, he might be manage the school routine better than he copes now.

    Bless you and your co-workers for working with these special children and loving what you do!

  2. God bless you for doing the job that you do! And good job keeping your sense of humor at the same time.

  3. Your workdays are certainly interesting! You are a special person to be able to work with special kids and maintain such a great attitude! I'd probably lose my cool sometimes...

    Hope tomorrow isn't as eventful!

  4. I really enjoyed hearing about your day, sounds like you've got good coworkers. I work with kids with aspergers, a few different challenges and some days my head hurts trying to keep up but I love it!

  5. wonder picking out a car was a piece of cake for you!

  6. goodness sakes, you sure did have an interesting day!!!

  7. I love the comments - I think I will address them in a post of their own. I have a very unique job and happy to share about it.
    Stay tuned...

  8. Jane,
    You must really love your job and have the patience of the world.
    There is no way I'd be able to handle that and wouldn't even want to try. It's people like you that help these children get through their days and I'm sure have a brighter future ahead because of your dedication.
    You have certainly opened my eyes as to how your days can be.
    Thanks for the in site.

  9. Jane if I had a hat on I,d be taking it off to you right now, we so badly need dedicated people like you in our special needs areas.

    god gave you a talent and you are using it.


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