One of the things I am loving about my new position is how much I get to learn. I am working with children with some significant needs and hopefully by the end of this year I will have a whole new skill set.
One of my students, Brown Bear (named after his favorite book) is a little boy with an intellectual disability. He is the younger brother of the Story Teller (if we had favorites the Story Teller would be one of mine, but of course we don't have favorites). Although I have worked with students with intellectual disabilities before I have never worked with anyone quite like him. His behavior is nothing like PJ's violent tantrums last year, but with PJ I felt like I knew what to do. I could see patterns in PJ's behavior and also knew how bright PJ was. His intelligence made his behavior somewhat predictable because we could anticipate what how he perceived the world. My new friend is different than that. We are not sure exactly what he understands and what he is confused about. When he breaks down in tears it is hard to figure out why. Is he over stimulated? Frustrated by a change in routine? Tired? Angry that he can't express his needs?
Sometimes we can put a finger on what motivates him and sometimes we are at a loss. It can be totally different motivators each time. What worked five minutes ago no longer works.
When he is happy his smile melts your heart. He has an uncanny ability to remember names and truly cares about the people in his environment. He loves physical touch and will cuddle up with you when given the chance. He can tell you all of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, exclaiming with glee on each page when a new animal appears.
I wish I knew more now to make a difference with him but I'm looking forward to learning more about how to reach him.
If anyone knows of any good books to read to learn about working with students with intellectual disabilities please let me know the titles!