Roberto used to be a good child. In fact, so good, that we'd sometimes forget he was there. With Roberto, I learned the meaning of echolalia. “Good morning,” I chirp in the friendliest voice I could muster after fighting Amy all the way down the hall. “Good morning,” he replied. That was nice, I thought. “What’s your name?” He said: “What’s your name?” Oh, he’s being clever. “My name’s Ms. S.” He says, “My name’s Ms. S.” What the hell is going on? I found out from a friend, this is one of the many symptoms of autism that I will learn about.
Morning meeting time. This is when we all go through our routine of what the date is, what day of the week it is, what the weather’s like outside, etc. We are getting into this routine, slowly, but surely and determinedly. “Roberto, come find what day it is.” “Roberto, come find what day it is.” Seriously, kid, come on. “What day is it?” To which he responds you guessed it, “What day is it?”
What am I going to do with this child? When he’s not repeating everything I say, he’s pissing his pants because that’s better than interacting with me to ask to use the bathroom. Come on with all the piss and poop already. Oh, did I mention the scripting?
Scripting is what autistic children do when they’ve seen a television show or played a video game and I guess they like it. I don’t actually know what the reasoning is behind this. They memorize all of the lines in a certain show or game and then they repeat them, ad nauseam. It’s weird is the only way to describe it and Roberto does it with so many things.
So, Roberto never, ever, has conversations with me. He’s like Amy, except she sometimes will come out of her autistic world to ask for something. Not Roberto. So, we start him on a program based on B.F. Skinner’s, a behaviorist, work. It essentially forces children to talk. So, I withhold food from him and force him to ask for it. I must look like a real mother Theresa, right?
Let me tally all I do in a given day: Change diapers, clean up piss and poop, sweat profusely while fighting children, force children to interact with me, make children vomit, compel children to eat food, put up with parents’ complaints that I’m incompetent, the list goes on an on and it’s really beginning to exhaust my core being.
I want to say that Roberto got better, but he got so much worse as the year went on. It all happened when his mother started working and was with him less. He started to act like an obstinate little brat. This just has to be a thing with autistic children. I’m at the brat maximum in my class.
Well, Roberto picks up on all the behaviors in the classroom. He has the strength of an ox and now I also fight him to use the bathroom or to eat certain foods. He refuses to eat certain foods and will start crying and he makes his body so stiff when he’s angry. It’s positively frightening. He’s spitting like Julio now. WTF is going on? This kid used to be so good. Why is this happening to me, god hates me I swear it.
It’s called regression - when an autistic child goes from being at a certain level to a lower functioning level. It makes me feel worse than I usually do about my teaching abilities. See because I still believe I’m going to have Raji talk and Amy using the toilet and Abeba will be eating foods. Julio will get an exorcism. But I won’t because I’m not a miracle worker and I have no idea how to teach autistic children. And Roberto certainly wasn’t going to get worse, worse than he was before. But he did.
I tried working with Roberto’s mother at home, but it was pointless. She was working long hours to support the family and was exhausted when she got home. She let the computer babysit him, and I couldn’t blame the poor woman. Shit, she already had this child to deal with. We continued to work with him throughout the year, but he never returned to his baseline behavior. It was quite sad.
On a more positive note, I want to let my followers (one of which I don’t know! OMG, it’s branching out, my blog is reaching more people!) and readers know that I just found a journal from this time period that will help me remember things. I have, as of late, gone by memories that have been mostly smothered and erased by my brain. So, this should help. I also will try to post more regularly. I know my readers want more and I will give them what they want. Stories of the inner city school teacher who fights daily to keep her dignity, her composure, but most of all, her sanity.