If I’m to be completely honest with all of you, I’ve never worked with children who have special needs. I’ve never taken classes on how to work with children who have special needs and I have never worked at a school where there were special needs children enrolled. It’s not because I have anything against children with special needs, it’s just that the opportunity has never presented itself (and I’ve never gone out of my way to look for that opportunity).
But now, I feel things have changed – I think.
Last Monday I got a new boy in my class – let’s call him Jumpy. At first I was annoyed – every spring (well, it’s almost) I get at least 2 new students who have never been enrolled in school before and whose parents expect to be ready for Kindergarten with just a few months of school. After the annoyance passed, I became optimistic – after all, I hadn’t even met the child or his family and it could be great! So I went into work Monday expecting the best. His mother (later I found out it was his grandmother whom he lives with) didn’t give me much information as she was in a hurry to leave – just that he is “very smart” and that he already knows “all his colors, shapes, letters, and numbers” and should have “no problems” entering into a class of 19 other children because he’s already been in “a small home daycare”. Okay, I thought, sounds great!
However, by Friday (well actually way before Friday), we realized that he shows a lot of atypical behavior. And not only have we observed this but many other teachers have as well. Academically, he is behind where he should be – so much for his being “very smart”. But that’s not where my concern lies. When we do group activities, he curls up in a ball (the majority of the time) and covers his ears. This can include music, dancing, flag salute, games (quiet and not so quite games), story time, etc. When we ask him to go find his spot on the carpet, he runs to the nearest corner, curls up in a ball, covers his ears, and screams. I have no idea why. He also hides a lot when we are doing something he doesn’t want to do or he is asked to do something he doesn’t like. He hides under chairs, tables, easels, cupboards – anywhere he can fit.
It also seems like he always needs to be touching someone/something, making noise, and moving around. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t ADD or ADHD – he can sit and focus if he chooses to – he just doesn’t choose to do it very often. I’ve had to move all the children away from him who sit near him because he won’t leave them alone and is causing them to be very distracted! I feel bad for him because I seriously think at times he doesn’t understand what we are asking him to do!
Jumpy also needs everything to be in order. If we ask him to come with us and he see’s something on the ground or something on a table (for example a glue bottle that has fallen over) he won’t come with us until he straightens up what he perceives to be out of place. I like neat children – but at times this gets a little out of hand!
He also can’t follow a line (or really stand in a line for that matter) so we’ve had to give him a buddy whose hand he holds anytime we leave the classroom. He doesn’t seem to mind this, and the children I’ve had all year think this is a very special job – so they don’t mind either!
He plays with the other children (as opposed to still doing parallel play) but he tends to be aggressive and doesn’t seem to understand the boundaries and rules the children have set up within their games. And he can become overly attached to certain kids and then won’t let others play with them or gets extremely agitated when they do – which can lead to more aggression.
So I’m not sure what to do. Jumpy is a sweet boy – but we can tell he has issues. Maybe we’re reading too much into his behavior and he isn’t special needs? But I can’t help but think that in my 8 years of teaching I’ve never come across a child with all of these behaviors. And this is just the beginning of what we’ve seen. The grandmother doesn’t seem aware (or willing to disclose) if anything is special about him – but we’re under the impression that there has to be a reason for all of these behaviors.
Any advice would be welcome – thanks! 🙂