Last week, I posted about what I had learned from my career as a school teacher. As is often the case with posts like that, as soon as I put it up, something else occurred to me, so you can consider this an addendum.
When I taught, both in public and private schools, I had the opportunity to work with a lot of students who were classified as having “special needs.” Many were GT/LD students, a few had Asperger’s Syndrome, some had sensory processing issues, and many were diagnosed as ADD/ADHD or simply had what was termed an “executive functioning disorder.” The vast majority of them were bright mainstreamed kids, but they had IEP’s and the right to receive services or accommodations (or they would have if they had attended public schools).
When you work with kids who have what is broadly termed “issues” then you start to learn a lot of the different tricks of the trade so to speak. From reading IEP’s and classroom accommodation recommendations, I learned about things like how chewing gum or popping tic-tacs can help some kids. From talking to parents and taking seminars, I learned about things like how useful timers and visual cues can be to help kids focus. From just working with the kids themselves, I learned things like how much it can help to have a kid run around the school before coming back to class.
I’m really blessed that neither Mushroom nor BalletBoy seem to have anything going on with their learning that would ever qualify them for an IEP were they to attend public school. However, probably the best thing I learned from working with all those kids with “issues” is that there should be no stigma to having issues and that all those learning and focusing tricks that are supposed to be for kids with “issues” are incredibly useful for all kids. I’m so glad I have experience with them.
The most tangible place that this has come in handy for is BalletBoy’s “chewy necklace.” Long story short, when the kids began getting their 6 year old molars and wanting to chew on things like toddlers, I wondered if it might be part new teeth and part sensory integration. So I bought them each a big donut shaped necklace from the company Teething Bling. Mushroom didn’t care much about his and he got over his oral fixation pretty quickly. But BalletBoy, who has always liked to have a special attachment object, has pretty much attached his to his neck permanently. And chewing on it really does help him focus, not to mention saves the edge of his shirt from the chewing I suspect he would do on it otherwise.