Yesterday, I subbed in a kind of class I haven't subbed in before. It was a mentally-challenged elementary class. I have often subbed in an emotionally-challenged class, but never mentally-challenged. I was unprepared for the differences. I guess I had never thought that the challenge for the emotionally-challenged kids is NOT their ability, it is their will to conform to your direction. Often, the emotionally-challenged kids are very bright. They simply don't want to do what you want them to do. Period. Makes it tough to get anything done, admittedly.
A mentally-challenged kid is perfectly willing to do what you want them to do, however, they often do not know how to do it. Several of the kids had Downs Syndrome, one had severe Cerebral Palsy (the always-smiling and adorable Angelica), and the others had various and sundry disorders not visible to the untrained eye.
One little boy, whose name was Logan, LOVED Star Wars. He also absolutely could not remember my name. He asked me no fewer than 9,347 times what my name was. (And, let's be clear. My name is easy. 4 letters. One syllable. Household item. Seriously.) So, finally I asked him what we could do to help him remember my name. He said he could probably remember it if I would call him Luke Skywalker when he remembered it. I thought that was brilliant. He (mostly) remembered my name for the rest of the day and said it every single time I walked by him, and then I would grin and mutter... "Hi Luke Skywalker." He would flash me the biggest smile when I did that. I promise you, he said my name 10,000 times after that, and every time, I answered him "Yes, Luke Skywalker," or "Hi Luke Skywalker," or "Good job, Luke Skywalker." He was adorable, and I hope he's up for adoption soon...
There was another little girl who had an interesting "style," shall we say. Let's call her T. T was about 10, but looked like she was 6. Her eyes were completely crossed, to the point that I'm not sure she could actually see very much. T loves pink, Hello Kitty, taking off her shoes and purses of any sort. T says very little - she mostly parrots what she hears. While many members of the class actually showed evidence of learning, T really seemed oblivious to everything going on. When T was left alone for any period of time, she would jump out of her seat and go hit someone. Just cause she wanted to.
Towards the middle of the day, T began to get out of control. She had her own aide, which helped tremendously, but even with her own aide, it was hard to control T. It was very hard to understand what she said, which by the end of the day, we were quite thankful for.
By the end of the day, T had degenerated to the point where she was sitting in the rocking chair muttering to herself and shouting two things in the teachers' general direction:
NOW, as I said, she has a severe speech impediment. She was ticked off because we wouldn't let her continue to run around and hit everyone like she wanted to and that we had taken her purse away due to her behavior. So, she was mad. Consequently, what she was actually saying was VERY different from Fish...and Barbeque. And actually Barbeque isn't accurate...it sounded like Barfaque. Say that out loud once (but not near your kids, please) and see if you can catch the swear word hidden in an innocuous-sounding word. I bet she said both words 500 times during the day. Mostly within the last hour of class. It was sad, because she was simply parroting what she hears. In order for that to be nearly the only thing she says, she would have to hear those two things A LOT in her life. The aide told me she lives with her grandmother because her mom is in jail. For prostitution. Again. Sounds to me like T has had it rough in her young life.
Poor little T. That's the tough part of teaching special ed. Sometimes you see the kids that simply have no chance whatsoever in life. I think T is one of those kids. I don't see her ever having a life of her own, nor having anyone who cares enough to give her any kind of life. I really wonder what will happen to T. It's really one of the things that makes subbing hard. You get thrown into these kids' lives for a short period and often you never see them again. Say a prayer for little T, Logan, Angelica and all of their friends. It's a tough world out there for them.