Thursday, December 2, 2010

Angel With a Broken Wing

The other day at school I had to get something off a high shelf and while standing on a chair in order to reach I found a ceramic angel that a former staff member had given me - it had fallen over and one wing was broken off. For the past few days it has lain on my desk, patiently waiting for me to get out the Gorilla Glue and put it back together - this angel I can fix.

I was going to write a rant today but after being home now for a few hours my anger has turned to sadness.

I looked over my list of possible writing topics but nothing appeals to me right now.

So I will talk about one of my boys - M. M is the student who lives in a group home, not with his parents. He is a beautiful boy of Italian descent and when I look at him I think of how much the artist Michelangelo would have loved to paint his portrait. M is an angel I cannot fix.

Let me tell you about a practise amongst educational assistants. I have 7 EAs who work closely with my students, some work 1:1 with the students who have autism. M is one of those students. Yesterday he lost his EA. At another highschool in my city 2 EAs were declared redundant. When an EA is declared redundant at their school they have a choice: take a position where there is a temp EA currently working OR "bump" someone with less seniority and take their job. The "bumped" EA goes through the same process - take an exisiting position with a temp EA or bump someone lower...etc...etc it can go on for months before everyone is settled.

This is in their contract and there is nothing I or anyone else can do about it.

M's new EA had a really rough day.  M wouldn't eat his lunch and when it was time to go to physed he began trying to bite the new EA. Two more EAs talked to M who was lying on the floor in the hallway and withing 2-3 minutes he agreed to walk back inside my classroom and go sit in our "quiet room". M made several attempts to get past other EAs in order to bite his new EA. We had to send the new EA to another area so M couldn't see him. He was extremely anxious and agitated and tried to bite and kick the EAs. Once he was seated the EAs left the quiet room and closed the door but M tried and tried to get out. He kicked the door many times and then started banging his head against the door. The EAs (not his) had to go in to prevent him from injuring himself. I called his group home to send staff to pick him up and take him home. When M was calmer staff again left the room but M then kicked the cement block wall with his foot and began to sob. He cried and cried as though his heart was broken. I realized then just how much he was grieving the loss of his EA, his one true friend. It was the saddest moment I've ever witnessed.

We put some ice on his foot and he put a piece in his mouth. An EA continued to feed him ice chips until group home staff arrived to take him home. He kept saying to himself "don't cry."

I don't know what tomorrow will bring. The new EA is going to have to try to make a connection with M - it won't be easy. M had such a close bond with his former EA and he has no understanding of "bumping" and really, neither do I. It's a practise that puts the needs of the most vulnerable of our students last. His best friend has vanished into thin air and I can't fix it.

Thanks for listening.


  1. Such a sad day for M and for you who do understand and can do little to help him. Some Bureaucratic decisions make no sense at all, except to the pen pushers, no wonder you wanted a rant.

  2. Oh this is very sad. I wonder how his regular EA who left felt?

    I hope the adjustment period gets better {hugs}

  3. Oh Jane my heart goes out to M. It's really hard for any of us to have our routines disrupted but for these special children I know it's devastating. I really hate that bumping practice, it's stupid really. I've seen it happen in other places.
    Hugs for you and M.

  4. Aww... that's so sad. :( I feel so bad for the poor guy... I hope he "connects" with his new EA! Everyone deserves someone who makes them feel safe & sercure!!

  5. This is truly heartbreaking. I can't fathom how much hurt this boy is experiencing. You'd think there would be some exception for kids with autism-their routines are so integral to their functioning. I hate when bureuacracy rules.

  6. that's sad..gonna have to go re-read the post on Michael now to cheer myself back up...

  7. This truly is such a sad no win situation for M, the new EA and the old EA. My heart goes out to all three because it will be a long road ahead for M and his new EA.
    The old EA is properly just as sad about the move and losing M.

  8. Sometimes the system fails these kids. I understand the bumping is due to the unions, but my personal opinion is that in these cases, the child's needs should come first. All that chaos for what?

  9. It's obvious the "bumping" system takes in very little regard for the students. This is a sad story, one which I'm sure you witness more than you like. If only rules could be more gray. All this black and white is never good.

  10. Friday M's aggression was turned to "things" not people but he is obviously disturbed in some way by the changes. He bent a DVD in half, broke several pencils and a marker and while sitting on his van waiting to go home he got his communication book out of his backpack and tore it to bits. I don't feel confident in the new EA's ability to act proactively as opposed to reacting to each event as it happens. Perhaps in time.


Thank you for your comment - it means a lot to me that you read my post and are leaving a comment - you just made my day!