Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nothing to Say

...Except that I'm tired and I need a vacation which I won't get because I finish working at an autism camp on the 7th and start my real job on the 10th, and my kids at the camp are making me about ready to pull out my hair and scream like a crazy woman, and I really want a Reese's peanut butter cup because I've been on the South Beach diet for a month and a half and I haven't had anything white or refined and I'm LOSING MY MIND.

That is all. Carry on.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Good things come when other things are lousy.

So, just when I get all whiny about how awful my job is, something cool happened today. I'm pretty sure it's God's little way of saying "Suck it up, sister, you're here for a reason". I get it, I get it.

This morning, while attempting to remove B from every table top/high surface in the room and listening to him scream in protest (for three. hours. straight.), I forgot that Mondays are Art Days. Two very patient women from the Art Center come to camp and let the kids paint to their little hearts' content. Some of them want no part of it, but some love it. My group usually isn't too keen on the whole sitting in a chair and following directions thing, so I didn't think we'd be there long. Little did I know...

Last week, J smacked the art lady in the face within 30 seconds of sitting down. Today, she sat in a chair for eight minutes and let an assistant help her paint a picture of a rainbow. HUGE for this girl. I was sitting by D1, who loves to write and draw, and he was a little hesitant at first. I helped him paint a happy face with hair and ears....then he took off. It was like a lightbulb turned on somewhere in his little mind. He painted an elephant with two people riding on its back, a big bright rainbow, and a house under the rainbow with trees beside it. We could see him thinking about what to paint next. The coolest part was when he picked up the orange paintbrush and wrote "orange", then used the red paint to write "red". Why was this so cool, you ask? Why did the art ladies and I tear up a little at the sight of those two simple words? Because those were the two first words D1 has ever written. Ever. He writes groups of letters that resemble words all the time, but never an actual word. We didn't ask him to write those words, and we didn't spell them for him. Painting somehow stimulated a part of my sweet little guy's brain that said "Hey, we've seen these words a thousand times, let's make these wimpy teachers cry".

Needless to say, I won't forget Art Day next week.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why do I get myself into these things?

Some of you might find this shocking (ha), but I have trouble saying no when people ask me to do things, especially when kids are involved. I'll probably babysit for you even if I have work at 7am the next morning (unless I don't like your kids, then I make up an excuse...don't worry Amanda, I've never done that to you :-) ), and I'll most likely work at XYZ event for free in the scorching heat to support the Organization for Kids with Eleven Toes or whatever. Which is why I've found myself in my current predicament.
Way back in April, I applied for a part-time job as the director of a summer day camp for kids with mental retardation and autism. I figured that, being a director, I wouldn't have to directly care for the kids, but mainly just supervise. I thought my interview went well...and then the current director called. They decided to restructure the camp a little this year, and would I be interested in being a teacher with two assistants in one of the classes? He put me on the spot...what could I say other than, "Um, sure, that sounds great". Dummy.
Now, approximately four weeks into the Camp that Never Ends, I'd like to introduce you to my hellians kiddos. Here's info about my 8 little autistic darlings:

A, aka "The Charmer": 5 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, only eats baby food. Cute as a bug, looks much younger than he is. Usually sweet and cuddly, but can throw a mean tantrum when he doesn't want to do his work. Favorite activity is throwing things up in the air. Quite possibly one of the most spoiled kids ever...his parents and (overbearing) grandparents pulled him out after the second week because he "wasn't getting enough individual attention". Whatever.

B, aka "The Climber": 5 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, never stops moving, leaves a trail of destruction everywhere he goes. Likes to bang his head on the floor when he's mad, and has been known to strip from the waist down and swing his diaper in the air like a lasso. The kid climbs on everything and tries to steal the other kids' lunch. His two-nanosecond attention span seems to be increasing....slooooowly.

D1, aka "The Cutie": 5 years old, potty trained (hallelujah), semi-verbal, relatively high functioning. Sweet boy, likes to cuddle, LOVES to write letters and numbers. He knows the names of everyone in the class, and often asks where so-and-so is. Has a crazy internal clock and knows exactly when it's time for lunch or to go home. Brother to D2, and occasionally imitates his behaviors.

E, aka "The Flasher": 6 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, one of the most severely autistic kids in the class. Loves to have his belly and arms rubbed, but can scratch without warning (I have scars). When he's happy, he has a sweet giggle. When he's mad, he pulls his pants down. Loves to walk the hallways, but throws a fit when he has to come back in the classroom. His favorite thing in the world is Dora the Explorer, which is the only way I can get him to work in the mornings.

D2, aka "The Runner": 7 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, brother to D1. He does NOT like to work, but will if you promise to take him for a walk down the hallways. Will run out of the classroom/playground/building if you look away, and boyfriend is FAST. Also has an obsession with flushing the toilet and climbing up on the cabinets to rewind E's Dora video.

C, aka "The Bottomless Pit": 7 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, will eat anything and everything that is edible. The kid is a toothpick, but never stops eating. Loves borrowing shoes from the other kids and lining them up, and freaks out if you disturb his lines. Likes playing in the dirt on the playground, and has been known to push another kid out of the way in order to sit in a teacher's lap.

J, aka "The Hitter": 8 years old, nonverbal, in diapers, severe autism. J is a mystery to me. She doesn't seem to have any interests other than beating the crap out of me when I'm not paying attention. She's got a mean backhand and uses it often. I'm learning to catch the fist before it connects with my face, but this chick's quick. I'm considering buying her a pair of boxing gloves.

K, aka "The Princess": 8 years old, verbal, potty trained, very high functioning. Likes to do what she wants, when she wants, and throws a royal tantrum if that doesn't happen. She's learning quickly that I can handle her outbursts, so we're working on taking turns and not getting our way rightthissecond. Can be a very sweet girl...when she wants to be.

Z-man: 8 years old, semi-verbal, potty trained, only comes three days each week for half a day. He loves making spaceships out of pattern blocks, and is usually pretty low-maintenance. Loves the playground, hates bowling, and would rather eat Cheez-Its over anything else in the world.

I love these little monsters, but it's been a rough four weeks. Thankfully, I have two fabulous full-time assistants, and two other helpers work with B, J, and Z three days a week. Still, though...I need a vacation from my summer vacation. Seriously.