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18/10/16

Jenny had started work in a SEN classroom for the first time and gives us an insight into what this kind of environment was like. I hope you'll agree her account is both heart warming and honest.

'Miss, is Bum-Shuffle a verb?'

I was asked recently what working with SEN kids is like. After a long think, the best way I could describe it was: 'It's like being around small, pourus, super-humans.'

Not only are some of them taking in and deciphering every word that's said, most of them are working faster than average to process your facial expression, body language, tone, volume, use of language, etc. For some of them it seems as if every avenue they possess is always open and taking in information like a waterfall. It's easy to understand why they get confused and overwhelmed. Others seem to be trapped inside themselves and are discovering their numerous doors slowly, one at a time. The rest are somewhere in the middle. Of course, each autistic child is different and has varying strengths, weaknesses, reactions, processes, triggers...but then again, don't we all?


It's easy to feel a bit like Dr Xavier at work, a la 'The X-Men'. Yes, some of our heroes are volatile, but they all possess a unique way of seeing the world and have strengths & weaknesses that us mere mortals could never fully understand. Sometimes it's hard to be the one to train them to conform to social norms when their questions are so valid:

'Miss, why must I be quiet when I have things to say?' 'Why should I stand here and listen when something is disturbing my concentration?' 'Why can't I play outside right now!?'

After a while you start to agree with their free-spiritedness and it becomes hard to be the guardian who curbs their innocence. I have to remind myself that one day they will be adults who need to function in society...but it does leave me questioning my own boundaries and why I don't go outside to play at every opportunity. However, one saving grace as a teacher is that most autistic children on some level find comfort in routine and will happily partake in: 'circle time, maths, break, english', because it was pre-set.

The best news is that it's easy to enjoy being around autistic children. They are very honest. They can only be exactly what they are and so you're only ever dealing with what's right in front of you. Playtime is energetic and imaginative. I often find myself on the floor as a victim in an imagination ambulance game. Or receiving extremely detailed manoeuvre and weapon instructions in a game of soldiers. I have been a variety of highly detailed & accurate dinosaurs and have played board games with some very bendy rules. There's always lots of cuddles to be had, kind words to be said and the biggest comfort is knowing that you're creating bonds with some of the children in the world who need you the most.

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