Blogging A-Z: R is for rescue. Imagine yourself caught in a flash flood, hanging to a tree limb for dear life, when some strong arms pluck you to safety. It’s the responsibility of special educators, in particular, to be those who rescue special needs kids from the not-so-unexpected crises of school life. We operate in that role because we know the sandbars, riptides, and swift currents which lurk among social and teacher-student interactions. For kids on the autism spectrum, and kids with learning disabilities who have been pushed to their limits, we must be especially vigilant at this time of year. For many students, the school year has eroded their capacity to respond flexibly. Arm yourself with a strong rope and fearless attitude. Stay alert for floundering kids. Special note: Just because these scenarios involve classroom teachers, don’t imagine for a moment that a special educator is not capable of the same blunders. I’ve seen both!
Here’s what rescue operations can look like:
1. You get a call that “your” student is running amok in the gym. You know that this environment is particularly difficult for this kid, with noise, massive space, and the in-your-face gym teacher. The class and teacher are pretending to ignore your rampaging student. You have two quick rescue actions to take: one, avoid burning bridges with the teacher by quickly letting her know you’ll deal with this (familiar language for her); and two, pluck your kid to safety with a smile and calm demeanor (again, familiar reaction and few words).
2. You are on your way to pull out a student when you hear the commotion before you can see what’s happening. You know this kid happens to irritate the already irritable teaching assistant. Sure enough, your student is cornered, angry and shaking, as the assistant blasts off his skin with scathing words. The entire class is lined up in that hallway, watching the blistering. You have three quick rescue actions to take: one, ignore the adult, who will start shrieking at you momentarily; two, engage your student in a brilliant and humorous conversation about a topic of interest while moving him far away from the ruckus; and three, smile and briefly greet kids in the class line as you move away, establishing a sense that your student is just fine.
3. You walk into a classroom and see your student being raked over the coals for trying to use a modification which is part of his IEP. You have two quick rescue actions and one delayed reaction: one, quickly apologize for being late and rush the student away; two, empathize with the student (“Oh, my gosh! I couldn’t believe you were being told to write that again!”); and three, set up a meeting with the teacher to help her implement modifications.
Way to go, rescuer!