Thursday, April 3, 2014

Autism Awareness Month

In a few short months when summer arrives, I will have completed my second year working as a paraprofessional supporting children with autism. 

As you know this little slice of the internet is a place where I document my life and I have said very little about what I now do at work.

I have done not for profit association work and marketing for my entire 20 year professional work career, and I have NEVER made such little money at a job and been happier at work.  

When I said I was making big changes a few years ago, I meant it!

I don't know if this current career is sustainable due to the financial hardship that it really created (hence working the side jobs at Pampered Chef and My719Moms) , but I know one thing only....that I LOVE IT.

I feel I was called to do it and I know that every day, every single day at work I make a difference.

At the beginning of the school year one of my kindergartners didn't know at least 1/2 of the alphabet.  Today he read a book to me
 "I see the {insert photo of a cat}".

When once my 4th grader paced, flapped and had anxiety in band, I thought I would never be watching him LEAD the class. He knows EVERY part of EVERY song and literally ROCKS OUT now. 

Inclusion means we do everything in the general education classroom. It also means I have to be quick.  Lacrosse in PE? We'll try!  Group projects with peers?  We'll try.

The key, We Try.  All the time. If it's too much we modify, but we also try and try again. There is no can't, and THAT is what I love about my day.  That I believe is why there is such success these days with children with special needs. The way they learn is different, it doesn't mean they can't learn. It's my job to modify and make it work.  If math seems too hard and overwhelming, I may wear a puppet on my hand to "talk" the student through it.  The crazy thing? It works and the kids learn.  

Most of my day revolves around behaviors that I try to work around or decrease.  We can't "watch movies" on our hands during school. Even though I am impressed by the scripting and memorization, (it's seriously incredible!!) we can't do our school work if we are on scene 27 of Cars, 34 minutes and 7 seconds into the movie. WORD FOR WORD.

We spend time in the sensory room, working out sensory issues to increase focus time and learning.  5 minutes on that trampoline while singing Pherrell's Happy can get anyone ready to work and tired enough to sit in class long enough for a math lesson.

(you can see Cooper likes to sneak in the sensory room too when he can)

Most of all, this job has taught me to SLOW DOWN. Something you know I had been unable to do for years.  Processing times are slower, simple tasks take triple the time due to behaviors, but it's my job to wait, to support and to help them try.

And eventually succeed.

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