I was to work as an aide in a classroom with 12 children along with 6 other aides and a master teacher. Most of the children were high functioning so they were able to communicate. I was placed with another aide to work with 3 boys. We were to mainstream four hours in a regular classroom and after lunch we were to return to the special education classroom for discrete trials.
When I began all the students in our program were boys ages 4 to 6. After about a month, a new student started. Enter a young girl 4 1/2 years old, doesn’t speak, has slight behavior problems. She’s a sweet girl, big brown eyes that gaze away when you speak to her.
As with many autistic children, she requires rituals: Comes into the classroom, puts backpack in her cubby, and goes to her work area. She is very social and plays well with other children on the playground, takes turns on the toys, interacts with the other children when using toys ...
All is fine until a request is made of her! A simple request such as “touch your nose” may cause complete chaos. You make request of her and she will sit and stare at you. She doesn’t share well, will grab when she wants an object that another child has. She screams when you remove an object that she is using when you begin her session of work.
That was until about a month ago, but then came the day when all the frustration was worth it. While working with her previously I was wondering whether any of this was worth the trouble. “Is she going to learn anything, or are we wasting our time?”
During sessions we use reinforces for praise when a child accomplishes a positive action. With this particular child I was using mini M&Ms, which she loves. While working with her I would make a request such as “touch your ear” and shake the tube of candy. This action brought to her attention the object that she was “working” for. Well, out of nowhere, while I am working with my other child she taps me on the shoulder, mimics the shaking of the candy tube, touches her ear, and even says the word “ear”. This is after a month of NO words spoken to me.
Yesterday, after a session of water play, she had had enough of the boys splashing and getting her wet. She approached me for a bit of security and calm. While I was sitting on the ground at her level she leaned toward me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. This is from a child who a month ago would not allow anyone to touch her! I am beginning to see that this is all worthwhile.