This summer, like last, I am working in a 4 week ESY program for children with special needs. When I applied for summer school, I checked the box stating that I wanted to work with children who have autism. I got what I wanted, and then some.
I work alongside a teacher and another aide with a small group of first and second graders who have autism. While I do help with the other kids, there is a specific reason I was assigned to this group. His name is Bruce.
Bruce is 7 1/2 years old. Not only does he have autism, he also has adhd, and is visually impaired. He only has a little vision in his right eye and none in the left. Bruce wears very thick glasses and a helmet to protect his head. Because of his visual impairment, Bruce must have an aide with him one-on-one. That’s where I come in. Bruce has been through a lot in his short life, and knows more medical jargon than most adults! It’s amazing to listen to him talk !
When I first found out that I was to be Bruce’s one-on-one, I wasn’t sure I could handle it. Bruce was in the summer ESY program last year at the school where I work. A friend of mine had worked with him then, and I called her for advice.
Armed with my friend’s advice, I went to work the first day ready to meet Bruce. I met his mother as well that day, and we all got off to a good start. Back in the classroom, Bruce got settled in, and the adventure began.
Bruce adapted well to the new classroom, his classmates, the teacher, the aide and myself. Now I had to learn to adapt to Bruce. I had never before worked with a child who is visually impaired, and I had a lot to learn.
At various times and on various days a speech teacher teacher comes in to work with the students. In addition to speech Bruce also receives, occupational therapy, and visual therapy. I sit in on his sessions with the OT and visual teacher so that I can learn how to better work with him. I also provide input on Bruce to the visual teacher and the OT .
I can handle Bruce’s autism, and even his visual impairment, but his adhd makes working with him a real challenge. Each day I call on every ounce of patience I can summon. Though summer school is only half a day, I am usually worn out by dismissal time.
Though I am there to help him learn, I have learned a lot from Bruce. He is always ready for whatever the day has in store for him, and doesn’t let the challenges he has stop him.
There are eight more days to go before summer school ends. Eight more days of challenges. Eight more days of smiles, high fives, and I love yous. Eight more days before Bruce and I part ways. He has taught me so much and made my summer a truly special one. Thank you Bruce. I’m going to miss you.