If I could Turn Back Time…..

Sorry to disappoint all of you die hard Cher fans, no fishnet stockings here. Today I feel pretty lousy. I know at first glance this could be blamed on tiredness but deep down I know it is more than that. (while on the topic, a big thank you to baby Sammy who loves me so much, he decided he wanted to see me every two hours last night…)  I’ve worked out  that what I am feeling is guilt and regret.

Before going to bed last night I sat down to catch up some reading for my Masters. My current course takes a closer, in depth look at Autism Spectrum Disorders. As a relatively experienced educator, I foolishly believed that just having taught children with A.S.D gave me a licence to ‘pretend’ I knew what I was doing. The more I read, the more I learn, the more I learn the more I realize that I knew nothing. I have actually come away from this work feeling like I owe a big fat apology to the children and families of the A.S.D children I had taught in the years before ‘we knew’ what we were doing.

If I could turn back time…..

I would never haver made him look me in the eye. The sheer anxiety  that we caused him would have been crippling. He was still listening.

I wouldn’t have insisted that he ‘colour his worksheet’.  It really had nothing to do with his learning, and was more to do with his teachers demonstrating their power. He was petrified of making a mistake and not being perfect in our eyes .

I would’ve realized the noises he was making weren’t because he was trying to annoy me, but because he was frightened that he didn’t understand what we were doing.

I wouldn’t have made him sit on the carpet, because to him it was like sitting on razor blades. 

I wouldn’t have arranged for other children to play with him at break times. He really just did enjoy being alone and needed that time to regroup. He was safe in his space.

I would have allowed him more time to celebrate his obsessions, because one day this would be his career.

The list could go on forever.

(Including some very ‘off topic’ regrets such as not trying to drink a bottle of  Jim Beam before a blue light disco at the age of 15 resulting in a drunken hug with the school principal and for thinking taking a job at a place called ‘Burger Hop’ was ever going to lead to fame and fortune)

 I have learnt more from reading the works of Temple Grandin, than I could have over the next twenty years in a classroom. Who better to steer us in the right direction than somebody actually living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, not some researcher who his good at collecting data and telling us what the statistics indicate would be best.

I only wish that every pre-service teacher was made to read her recommendations for classroom teachers.

Several Movies have been made of her extraordinary success, well worth looking her up, particularly’  Grandin, Temple 1995, ‘Learning style of people with autism: an autobiography’,. 

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17 thoughts on “If I could Turn Back Time…..

  1. The most important thing in life is to understand how things can be improved and then hope someone listens to use your wisdom.

  2. Thank you for this. I am working towards my teaching certificate and Master’s degree after spending the past 7 years as a stay at home mom (and a microbiologist before that – so this is a rather drastic career change for me). I have had several courses on the inclusive classroom and exceptional students. I have been on the fringes of special needs groups, having two premature boys that both have IEPs, but with each class on these topics I take, the more I realize how little I really know.

    We need to keep talking, writing, reading, and sharing what we learn so we can all understand a little more and become better and wiser.

  3. We have so much to learn from children on the spectrum. Occasionally they will give you glimpse into their world an enlighten you. I remember I was very concerned about a young boy I was working with, recess and lunch were a nightmare for him and everyone else in the playground. I decided to Google what it is like for a child on the spectrum in the school playground. Well ! it was then I realised just what he was going through at every break time. The noise levels had increased 10 fold, the sense of smells he could taste, and simply brushing pass a child could be painful, now add the facial expressions he could not decode and the structure of the classroom no longer and the big wide open space with no corners to hide and no tables and chairs to crawl under. What a frightening experience it must have been. He was having total sensory overload. Fortunately today he copes so much better with some strategies in place, but it took us a little time to work it. It is wonderful that you take so much interest in your special children. Children with special needs have so much to offer and are too often misunderstood. There is also a Golden Rule I will never forget and many people are unaware they even do it. Always put the child before the disability, it will really annoy you when you hear people or look at newspaper articles referring to”The autistic children” or ” The adhd child” etc sounds so much nicer The children with autism.

    • Sorry for the late reply…not sure what happened there. I can completely understand the situation with your student, and have been there many times.The yard is frequently a source of confusion and often a trigger for meltdowns. The world closes in and the rules become blurry. I also found that one of the main problems was that many of the teachers on yard duty were unaware or unskilled in dealing with children with ASD, so would enter into big ‘playground standoffs’ with the children instead of using effective strategies. It is so important that’ all staff’ are regularly updated on effective techniques and communication strategies, it should never just be the responsibility of the classroom teacher and Student Support Officer.

  4. A really beautifully honest post so many other teachers could learn from. The saying about not truly knowing someone without walking a mile in their shoes is so very apt! So many teachers could so do with walking so many others’ shoes!

  5. Not just teachers – my daughter has started at a new school and has an autistic boy that she sits next to. I’ve tried to explain that he sees the world differently, but I’ll show her your post as it is far more eloquent than I have been.

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