Thursday, May 23, 2013

Highs & Lows

Oh goodness I'm lovin this coastal weather, are we in the central valley.. seriously? Fantastic is an understatement.

These past two weeks the schools have been underway with state testing. When I was young it was my favorite time of the year. An excuse to chew gum and eat unlimited snacks. Heck yes.

The amount of students I see during this time of year slows down due to testing. However; my older group of students make time to stop by and poke their heads in hoping therapy will take place. Today it did.

I see a group of three students who are all in 6th grade. They come in once a week for 30 minutes of speech and language therapy. At the beginning of the year they were quiet, and I pushed hard to get a word out of them. Homies musta been scared of their 5 foot 123lb blondie speech teacher.

It didn't take long for me to see the hearts in these kids. Genuine and loving, looking for time from someone who would listen and pay attention to them. I started allocating the last 15 minutes of speech to reflect on the good and not so good times in our lives. Which we later called Highs and Lows. You better believe I participate too.

Little did I know how much of an impact this was making. Word quickly got around to the school about our High/Low time and kids were stopping me in the hallways.. "Teacher Natalie, can I come to speech with ______".

Working in an area that has high poverty and hearing deep deep stories from the kids, makes my stomach turn. I take it in and remind myself to exhale. It's not easy and I'm not even living it. I'll be honest, I'm having trouble with the "ins" and "outs". I need more guarantees for these kids to know, actually know, that something greater than their lousy deadbeat parents is out there.

I've never known the struggle of not wanting to go home because of parents fighting, drugs, drama, abuse, going without electricity and water. How can you concentrate in school with all those situations and I'll never know why these young innocent kids were handed a brutal life. Because of that I use speech as a tool to teach life skills. For these kids and myself our High/Low time is beneficial and reminds us of the little things in life to be happy for.

The future for them might seem uncertain and blurry, but in the precious 30 minutes we take once a week, everything that almost existed snaps into focus for a moment. They feel hope peak in with a frown that turns into a smile. If anything... Thats what counts.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Handful of Happy

Today we did one of my favorite things. We attempted the zoo. And it happened. Eight, 1st - 3rd graders with Autism visited creatures they've never seen in their entire little lives. Or for some, are regular monthly attenders.Today was the best day for it. Even with the cloudy skies.

All the animal friends were out puttin on a boomin show or waiting for a scrumptious breakfast. One of us probably looked mighty tasty to eat.

My co-worker and I decided to call the day at the Zoo our Speech Day. Along the way we attempted to initiate conversation and describe various animals we came across. Lets just say... it went better for some than others. A majority of our students don't initiate conversations on their own or make requests and comment on the world around them. So, much prompting and modeling is given. On occasion it's a little awkward and feels like I'm talking to the trees, and that's okay too.

Amanda and I have a theory that it is our attempt to teach these kids how to learn in any environment we place them in. The zoo was perfect, comforting, and exciting for all. There were plenty of sounds to identify, animals to describe, and smells to distinguish.

Today was an opportunity for parents to join in on the zoo fun. I never quite know how it will play out. Today was flat out awesome. It was touching to see how involved these parents are and motivated to do what's best for their Little's. While in the restroom I overheard a mom talking to her son... even though he understands, it's difficult for him to verbally express. His mom asked him, "How do you feel?" his reply "Haaaaaaapppppy, Haaaaaaapppppy!" It made me light up. He was enjoying his day at the zoo and to top it off mom was there to share that joy with him.

Even with the cloudy skies and light sprinkles we still had a handful of happy today.