Ashley had a good day at school today UNTIL her vision teacher showed up just 15 minutes before the end of the school day. Ashley may not be able to tell you exactly what time it is, but she knows her daily schedule down to every last minute. School is over at 3:15 pm, and beginning around 2:45 pm, Ashley is winding down, looking for her coat and backpack, and happily anticipating her bus ride home. So, the arrival of the vision teacher at such an odd time (at least in Ashley's mind), was enough to turn a happy time into a time of frustration.
This particular teacher makes a habit of never arriving on any given schedule. It baffles me that someone specifically trained to teach and work with students who are blind does not understand that consistency and scheduling is extremely important. I honestly believe that one of the primary reasons Ashley is still not working well with this particular teacher is the lack of routine. It was no surprise that today this unexpected arrival resulted in a less than positive teaching session with Ashley.
Ashley was still frustrated and a little distressed once she arrived home. Like most people will do from time to time, she took out her frustration on those closest to her. I had to come up with a plan that could turn her looming bad night into a more pleasant evening for her and the rest of the family. I did that by letting her eat dinner on the front porch.
Ashley had not eaten outside since our family vacation last summer. Today was very warm and perfect for dinner outside. As Amy and I helped her walk out to the porch, she had the funniest expression on her face, sort of like she was thinking "What in the world are these two up to now?" She was barefoot and that also confused her. Here I was letting her walk outside without any shoes on. That too had not happened since last summer. We assisted her to the table on the porch and set her dinner in front of her. She smiled, giggled, and began to eat her dinner. She had a very leisurely meal while Amy and I caught up on the events of the day. She was relaxed and the frustration that had been so strong just moments before seemed to have completely evaporated. The plan worked!
I've learned over the years with my children that sometimes distraction is the best approach to solving behavior issues. Sometimes that distraction has to be as 'big' as the frustration is, and dinner on the porch was exactly that tonight. Although the actions of the vision teacher were somewhat similar - a surprise change in routine - they didn't work because the timing was way off. I've also learned that a distraction and the right timing go hand in hand. It's a fine balance and one that I have not always been successful with. Tonight it worked for us but this afternoon it did not work for the vision teacher. If the vision teacher took a little more time to get to know and understand Ashley - if she really listened to Ashley's aide, Amy - If she really thought about what approach would work best for Ashley and her unique disabilities, the teaching session would have gone much more smoothly. Here's hoping that the teacher in this situation was Ashley and the learner was the vision teacher.