r "The best laid plans of mice and men (slash that last word-change to teacher) often go awry." Robert Burns. Eight year old Carl had a plan for my well organized day on the children's psych unit, unbeknownst to the teacher, of course.
The story went like this. Carl was an Asperger's patient who had a fixation for fans particularly pink ones. The staff informed me of his situation: Psychotic Disorder, disorganized incoherent speech, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and behavioral disorders-plural.
"Please," his primary nurse requested, "do not mention, teach, or refer to fans in any form for the next couple of days while the nursing staff sought an area of functioning." My educational assistant and I scanned the entire room to completely comply. We removed all pink items, including crayons and flowers.
Carl came to my room at the worst possible time. The group was seated at a side table to play Brain Quest (Workman Publishing, 1992), a question and answer educational lesson using cards similar to trivia cards, but anchored in the lower corner. It's similar to a television quiz show, going around the table giving each student a chance to question several times. I used this as a social interaction technique.
The six students (who knew nothing of Carl's history) politely waited for Carl to be seated and promptly unfolded their cards into a fan shape. A fan-fare of gasps and choked sounds emitted from my lips. Never before had I seen ALL the children fan the rectangular clumsy cardboard packet of twenty or thirty cards simultaneously. Maybe, one or two cards as one browsed in search of a difficult question, but never the complete packet.
The timing of the event robbed me of my voice. I speechlessly looked on as Carl, joyously blurted out that he "just loved fans". He happily asked how he could get into the game, gave us a rendition of the history of the fan and that his favorite color of fans was pink. We were given all this information in segments as he gladly sat down stating on how he was going to like it here. The staff and I laughed all day about the best-laid plans of Dr. K. But, I can't stop there.
One more concluding unperceived Carl incident. Carl was overly anxious, obese, and had food and animal allergies. He had periods of unintelligible speech. I was helping with his communication breakdowns by telling him that speech is like writing a sentence. We pause at commas and stop at periods. Breath. Look at the listener. Continue. Carl immediately announced, "I live with my mom, (pause) a chinchilla, (pause), and bearded snakes (complete stop)." Yup. He stopped everything. I thought to myself, "I'm loving this kid!" My best laid plan, ever! Love.
Kaye is a teacher and author of multiple works including Valerie Valentine Visits Vincent Vampire