Thursday, June 25, 2015

Being "off" means being "on".

Before I went "pro" with the Kiddo, I used to work with special needs kids.  Many of which had autism.  I was what you would call a "job coach"/pre vocational instructor.  I really loved my job even though the idea of returning to that sort of work again makes me want to ball up in the fetal position and rock in the corner.  At the time, I loved it.  The students were awesome.  Even the "challenging" ones.  I worked with a variety of ages and abilities.  My department and I had to do a lot of trouble shooting straight on the spot to make things "work" to accommodate our students so they could be successful.   We were like MacGyver with what we could do with a roll of blue tape, Velcro and post its.

Since these kids were in school, they had all the other school stuff that went out throughout the day.  Tests, therapies and gym.  They also did the traditional fun stuff too like parties, field day and class trips. That's also when stuff got tricky to schedule with my department.   Since many of the kids were being brought to off campus to job sites we had acquired for them, they had REAL work to do when they got there.  If a student was sick, it was an excused and the job sites always understood.  I usually went with more than one kid anyway and they could handle it. (With a bit of help from the job coach.) We did had another situation to deal with it.  They wanted days off.

You see, the kids saw their classmates going to field days, parties and class trips and they wanted to go too!  Rightly so, they were still kids.  The job coaches understood this.  Our supervisor directly above us?  Well, not quite as much.  For lack of better words, he was kind of an ass about it.  While I agreed with him on the "You must put in a request and file the correct form." preparing them for the real world aspect, what they could use them for was an area of great debate between him and I.   (He preferred "Never" due to his wildly shifting personality. Yeah, he was gobs of fun on the job.)

But until my dying day I will never forget one teacher who just lit into this guy advocating for her student and his well deserved day off for a class trip.  My old boss was like 6'4.  This teacher was barely 5'2 and yet the weight of her words smacked this guy down hard.

"He'll go because otherwise he will never get to go.  Because his family does not take him out.  At all.  They  don't do it so we will."

BOOM! Mic drop moment.  I remember the dude mumbling "Yeah okay but just this once..." and slinking on out of there.  I don't really remember it being an issue that much ever again.  All these years later I still think about it.  Especially when the last thing I feel like doing is dealing with my Kiddo AND going out somewhere.   I don't ever want to get to that point where he never goes anywhere unless surrounded by an entourage of support staff.

At the time I remember in my late 20's no kids clueless way thinking "Well why don't they?".  In my early 40's with Kiddo wisdom, oh I get it.  I sooooo get it.  This wasn't a diss on this family from this teacher.  This was plain old sharing of information and saying why it was needed.  How many stories do you hear about teachers that are so clearly phoning it in.  Barely do what is needed to be done. Not this teacher.

This is a teacher who planned a class trip with the idea that ALL her students would go.  No matter what.  They're day off was really to help turn them on to the world around them.  Now, there is no doubt in my mind that she and her staff earn every penny of their paychecks on trip days but at the same time, they knew what they signed up to do.

My own Kiddo now goes to a school with a group of teachers who do the same.  All the kids go because they ALL deserve to go.  Sadly, some might not go out any time else.  It just is what it is.  I still thank teachers like this who work it out to make it happen on their watch.

Only with autism can you be "on" even when you are trying to be "off."  :-)


  1. She sounds like my kind of teacher - good for her!

  2. This is great! I've met two teacher's like this!!!! One advocated for my then 5 yo pre-diagnosed son and she was fired by the end of the week! :( The second one advocated on a more silent level and is still around.

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