I've had a sneaking suspicion for awhile about Brown Bear... he's smarter than we're all giving him credit for.
He has trouble pronouncing his words, fixates on certain interests obsessively, is non-compliant, and will throw himself on the ground and cry at seemingly nothing. All of this put together can lead one to believe that he has trouble learning new information and is overwhelmed by the world around him. I certainly believed it about him for quite awhile. But lately I've noticed that the more we throw at Brown Bear the better he does.
Brown Bear and I "wrote" a book together (I wrote it he sat beside me while I typed and repeated what I said) about Angry Birds. It is our version of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, but instead is Angry Bird, Angry Bird. I figured that we'd use the book to work on concepts of print, reading left to right, pointing to the words, and hopefully, maybe, use it to learn a word wall word or two.
The minute I introduced the word wall word 'me' in the book ("I see Angry Bird looking at me") he lit up. He found 'me' everywhere in our room. When I show him the word in isolation he recognizes is. He can make it with magnetic letters. So we learned 'see' and 'you' from the book. Again- he quickly learned these words and took them as his own. He grins when he reads the word to you. He's picking up other words in our classroom as well. His memory is beginning to prove to be quite good.
When I gave the class a preassessment on recognizing coins no one could tell me what any of the coins were. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for a long, hard unit. But who seems to be learning and remembering the names of the coins the fastest? Brown Bear. He can't pronounce the names correctly, but he gets "pen" for penny every time, and "dim" for dime. The /qu/' in quarter is rough, but he's making the same sound every time. He is accurate most of the time, and is learning the names faster than his classmates. I continue to be shocked by his memory- it's as though I can introduce something once and if he decides he's interested in it he remembers it.
On Friday he was working hard at getting my IA's attention. He was throwing his stuffed angry bird toy around the room and eyeing her, wanting her to reprimand him. He got up and walked toward the door, winding his arm back, preparing to chuck the bird out the door into the hallway. I didn't tell him to get back into the room, or give him any sort of reprimand. All I did was hold up a large cardboard nickel and say, "Hey, Brown Bear, what's this?"
His face lit up as he shouted, "NICKEL!!" and he scurried back to the rug.
All this time I've been underestimating him. I've been assuming that he was overwhelmed with the language and academics and that was causing his non-compliance, but I think that in reality he's just been bored. We haven't given him enough to learn academically.
Although I had this revelation a few days ago today I set up math centers like I usually do- with a group of children working on a kindergarten grade-level activity, but with Brown Bear working at his own station. As he did his work he eyed the kids at the activity. Eventually he got up and wondered over there. I mentally slapped myself on the face- why hadn't I put him there? He could play the game. He knew the coins better than the rest of them. I invited him to play and he quickly fit into the group.
I need to keep reminding myself to challenge him appropriately. Since we've increased his academic expectations his behavior has significantly improved. (I realized that now that I've written this tomorrow will probably be very rough). We've all been assuming what he can and can't do based on his atypical behavior and needs. We haven't given him a chance to prove whether or not our assumptions were valid. I love watching him blow past our expectations.