There I was, marching into the warzone....Ooops!! Did I say warzone? I meant marching into my classroom. I was as prepared as a soldier going to war! New year, new class! Why should I be worried? I was a teacher with 6 years of experience! I was teaching in a mainstream pre-school and had seen children with different abilities and parents with different needs! It was going to be easy peasy for me! Or so I thought!
I walked in and saw this adorable little girl running around the class! “Oh, so this must be Ariel*! She must be the one the previous teacher told me about”, I thought to myself. Fast forward one month into the term. Every day was a struggle. Ariel had difficulties trying to adapt to the new routine. As the other children were also trying to adapt to the class routine, it was tough trying to cope with Ariel and everyone else. Most of the time she needed my attention as she would sprint from one end to the other like an athlete.
The days came when I started to feel guilty about not doing enough for the other children. I felt guilty about the days I could not finish my lessons when Ariel had a meltdown. I have spent 40minutes alone with her at times to calm her down and try to get her to adjust to the new routine.
People around me were as clueless as I was. Nothing seemed to work! So I decided to take things into my own hands! I realised it was not just me who needed a breakthrough, we all did! I started to look for more information, keeping her needs in mind and read articles about children with such traits.
Finally, with some basic knowledge about Autism, I tried different strategies with Ariel. It took a lot of trial and error. But guess what? Eventually, it started to work!! I was the happiest person on earth when she started responding really well. Ariel’s parents and I worked together and she managed to settle into the new class. Her parents tried their best to follow the routine at home so that it would be easier for Ariel. Seeing Ariel achieve little milestones made me feel so proud.
Of course, it was not all rainbows and sunshine. There were days where she still had a meltdown. However, I learnt how to cope and along with me, Ariel’s friends were ever ready to help her! How sweet of those little munchkins to understand that one of them needed extra help!
All this was very new to me. She was my first student with special needs. To this day she remains as special to me as then. She was the one who made me realise my own capabilities. It was never easy and it will never be easy but trust me when I say it’s worth it! The satisfaction and happiness that I get from being a teacher is irreplaceable. Kudos to all the teachers! Always remember that you are making a difference in every child’s life, regardless of whether it’s a big or a small step! See you in my next post! Till then......your not so muscular soldier, Vani.
*name changed for anonimity
image credit goes to Audrey Loves Paris