Monday, August 25, 2014

Building Positive Interactions in the Classroom- Bubby goes to middle school

Tomorrow will be the one week marker of the start of school. This year was a big deal, because Bubby moved to middle school. I really had anticipated the worst. I thought for sure the teachers would be less than inclined to indulge him with all of this idiosyncrasies. I had anxiety filled thoughts of him being bullied, and crying. I tried not to think too much of it, but truth be told I was about a third ready to homeschool him. I really thought it might be that much of an ordeal.

To my utter shock it has been the total opposite.

I wanted to share an exchange that he had (told to me by his para) with his science teacher. It was the first, or second day of school, and they were coloring something. The teacher asked the class something related to the material they were studying.

Bubby's hand shot up, and she called on him.

Bubby: Does anyone tease your dog? (This is one of his special interests.)

Science Teacher: Well, we're talking about _________ right now, but I'd be happy to talk about my dog after class.

Immediately, Bubby starts to cry, and get worked up. Meltdown is pending. The para decided to let him be for a second, which I would agree with at that time. He needs some space to work through his upset at feeling criticized, and probably embarrassed.

Then the teacher comes by his table, and asks him what color he is choosing.He growls at her, but then decided to pick up a color.

Science Teacher: That is a great color. I would have chosen that one, too.

The rest of the table agrees that it is the best one for that. After coloring for a minute she asks about our dog, and shares about hers.

This is a complete turnaround from last year. Last year there would have been a long paragraph in his communication log via his para detailing what social mistakes he made, and the behaviors he had when *all* anyone said to him was _______.  There would be implications of how I need to correct, and/or discipline him for his disrespectful behavior. It likely would not have been said outright, because they don't want me to call the autism specialist again to explain to them how an autistic child operates, but they would imply it.

This year it has been totally different. To my knowledge, after that day there has been no meltdowns, and he is bringing home homework to do without even being asked. He is trusting that they have his back, and they will respect him, so in return he is willing to let some of his anxiety go down. With anxiety down he is able to fully engage without fear, and worry. They get the best of him, because they are not expecting the worst. If they had gone in with the attitude of making him conform to their rules, and the attitude that he needs to learn to behave properly in a classroom it would have been totally different. I really appreciated this approach from the staff who are not used to dealing with kids like Nathaniel. There's not too many autistic kids in our mainstream schools here, and 7th grade staff members aren't used to trying to approach teenagers with kid gloves, but I am appreciating that they are!

What I also noticed was how my reaction changed. As the para, and special ed teacher were telling me the story I felt my own anxiety begin to rise. I was thinking about how to address this issue of off topic questions,and possible social stories to write, ect... I was thinking of how to fix this behavior that I was sure the teacher was upset about. Come to find out, given the right environment the issue resolved itself! It really wasn't an issue. 

I am feeling really good about this year. Finger crossed that it will continue to go well!


  1. The teacher's attitude really does make a huge difference! I find this when I am working with kids, too. I do not like to overly correct them for every little thing, when a simple, "How about we talk about that later?" or offering them a five-minute break in the Cozy Corner (not a punishment, just a break) will work.


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