Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Sweetest Thing, for Betty

Some of you may know I started teaching in a Orthopedically Disabled classroom in August. The teachers ("aides") and I finally have our poop together, and we are moving quickly in the direction of communication...two-way, where it has traditionally been that the student's were passive participants in their education, just because only one has a "voice", and all have severe communication problems due to CP, Autism, or other "genetic" diseases.

What it has come to is the state requires a two-way testing in which each child is assessed for their this case, it is the alternative assessment for Science. Most of the kids are showing some didn't know the difference between the sun and the moon. Really, maybe it had never been presented to her.

But, then there is Betty. Betty has CP so severely all her muscle systems are affected. She can say "Mama", "Bob" (her brother), and little else with ease. I got her to say "ssssss" for "yes" a few weeks back, I tried again a couple of days ago, with no luck. It is just too difficult for her to get all the muscle groups working together without a tremendous desire on her part. It's like asking a fat kid to run 600 meters! (I know this from personal experience...cough, cough,......!!!!)

Betty has no muscle group in her body that she has total control over. Even her eyes, which are usually good indicators of where her mind is at, occasionally suffer strabismis in the middle of an action. Her left foot, supposedly, is the most predictable indicator, the problem being Betty has vision problems. If you put the answer down low, she may not be able to read it in order to "kick" the correct one.

I have figured out if you place both answers directly in front of Betty's eyes, where she can see them closely, her left hand can slap the answer sometimes, if it is a choice of 2. Three to four items can be placed on her wheelchair table, and if given a lot of time...she will eventually pick an answer. But there is no way to know if her hand's just very difficult to determine exactly what she is doing. But I've always gotten the feeling she was bored to death. She "loves" all her teachers who give her one to one teaching...the PT's, OT's, Speech and Vision teachers. I also detect a "teen age" attitude. All of these things make me feel as if I am going insane, because I am never really sure whether I WANT to see these things in Betty, or if they are REALLY there!

SOOOOOO...I am giving Betty this science assessment. So far, she has missed two answers, out of 30. One was choosing a picture that showed the wind blowing. The tree was so small she could have never seen it. The other was determining which body system pumped blood. She chose the skin, rather than the heart. Having never learned science, it was a good guess. All the veins running through it, and her extremeties often lose blood and turn blue, or have too much and turn bright red. The skin was a logical choice.

She only missed two. In my mind I'm thinking..."Do I want this so badly for her that I am always reading her answers to be the correct ones, always giving her the benefit of the doubt, or is she really bright?"

"Betty, you are doing really well on your test. If you are really smart, tell me 'yes'!"

"Ssssssssss!" she says, and looks at me all bright eyed!

Her mom is there, she is my third aide, although she has never been paid. I'm telling her how I think I am losing my mind...that it is so hard to believe that I am not reading into Betty's answers.

"Do you know where I'm coming from?" I ask.

"Yes, I know what you mean..." and we are both wide eyed in the ramifications of this. She has always wanted me to work one on one with Betty, but with up to 2/3 of the time given to feeding and changing, and with 6 other students, it's difficult.

Later on, the kids are watching the "Follow the Drinking Gourd" episode of Reading Rainbow so the aides can get some lunch in, and are laid out on mats to get out of their wheelchairs a while. The door to my office is closed except for a tiny little crack. The classroom is dark, but my office is lit up enough that I can see just two bright eyes near the bottom looking through the crack in the door. Betty has rolled over off the floor mat to look in on me through the crack in the office door.

It was the sweetest thing!



Anonymous said...

Rose, you might enjoy reading Dick Dalton's blog. He teaches a similar population:

Ms. Clark said...


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