Patience, Autism, and Me

autism awareness blog hop graphic

“How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more patience would have achieved success.” Elbert Hubbard

Unfortunately, I have (in the past) been one of those people who easily lost patience and threw up my hands in frustration. I have been one of those people who questioned students for having “not paid attention” to the lesson. How dare they not understand what I just taught! Shouldn’t they have learned this in previous years’ math classes?! What kind of a teacher wouldn’t make sure their students knew these basic math skills?! Those elementary teachers don’t really teach math because they don’t really understand it themselves!

Yes…..I was, at one time, one of those teachers. Blame everyone else but myself. After a few years, a few melt downs, many tears, many internet searches and workshops, I developed a little more patience. A few years ago, I remember deciding to just treat each lesson as if the students had never seen nor heard of it before. I started from the ground up on most of my lessons. I found resource books and internet articles about hands-on activities. I searched my own brain to think of ways to help students visualize the concepts. I wanted math to be more concrete than abstract. I was tired of hearing students (and their parents) come to me at the first of each year with such hate for math because of prior experiences. I knew things had to change for math education, and it was going to start with me.

I have taught MANY different types of students. I have taught students with many different “learning obstacles.” Never did I realize that when I offered to have a special needs student placed in my class that HE would be the one to teach ME so much. I know that sounds so cliche, but I don’t know how else to describe it. Here’s how my story with Logan goes……

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Attending our “Back to School” district convocation, I happened to be sitting next to one of our new teachers (not necessarily new, but new to having her own classroom in our building). She mentioned that her son would be on my sixth grade team, but wouldn’t be in my class because he would be placed with our special education teacher due to his autism. I mentioned to her that my class was very hands-on and I would love to see if he would be successful in my classroom. Nothing else was mentioned until a couple of days into the first week of school, I happened to run by his special ed. teacher and I mentioned the idea to her. She felt he would be a perfect fit for my teaching style. Mind you, at this point I had never met Logan.

The first day Logan came to my classroom, my initial thought was, “What did I just get myself into?” I’m pretty sure, he was thinking the same thing about me. Logan’s autism was a little more profound than the couple of students with autism I had taught in the past. I’m a strong teacher who is always up for a challenge, so I knew I wasn’t going to back down from this one. He was placed in my first hour class, which was perfect. The students in that hour were well disciplined and great kids in general.

The beginning of our journey was not necessarily smooth sailing. Logan and I bumped heads a few times. I learned the importance of consistency with students with autism. I learned that his chair (no matter where all the other chairs were placed) had to be in the same place. I learned that everything about Logan had to be the color blue; his chair, pencil, pen, notebook, scissors, pencil sharpener, pencil bag, binder, clothes, and anything else that we used. I learned that if we were working together, sometimes I had to let him tell me a story about The Lord of the Rings and then we could move on with the math. I learned that if we were working with hands-on manipulatives for a lesson, that I would have to give him some time to organize his before he would work with them like he was supposed to. In all of this, the most important thing I learned was to be patient. Be patient and let him do all of those things. Be patient and let him explore. Be patient and find a different way to show him things. Be patient and let him get his frustrations out for a little bit. Be patient…….Be understanding…….Be compassionate……..

Picture of Logan Working

Logan is always the highlight of my day. Logan has adapted to middle school and my class as well as any of the students. Logan works hard and has learned so much this year. Logan never misses coming down the hall during passing time and saying, “Hell-O Mrs. Kerr” often with a high -5 following it. I have enjoyed Logan and have learned so much about my teaching and myself this year. It has been my pleasure to be his math teacher and I thank his parents for trusting me with his education.

The freebie I am offering is a great activity that gives students practice with adding decimals by making up their own numbers using dice and a spinner. This is a great activity for not only students with special needs, but for all students. Click here or on the graphic below to get your free download!

Adding Decimals Freebie Picture

 

There is a whole packet that goes with this activity that is for sale in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The cost is $4.00, and is a great hands-on approach to teaching about decimals using base 10 blocks. Click here to go to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Make sure you check out the other posts in this blog hop. It started with my friend Caitlin from Learning Ahoy. Click on her button below to see her post on autism

The other blog hop post for today is from my friend Amy at The Resource(ful) Room.

Tomorrow’s posts will be from my super duper Canadian friend Tammy from Teaching FSL. Her post won’t be live until 4/4/13, but you can still check out her blog if you are reading this before then.


The other post for tomorrow (4/4/13) will be from my fellow middle school math teacher friend Michelle from Making It As a Middle School Teacher. Her post won’t be live until 4/4/13 either, but check out her blog if you’re reading this before then.

 Thanks for following this blog hop and for reading this long post. I hope you enjoy your freebie!

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19 Responses to Patience, Autism, and Me

  1. Kim says:

    Andrea:

    When I saw that you had signed up for this “Hop,” I knew I would love your post. I didn’t count on crying through it!

    How LUCKY Logan is to have such a terrific teacher. And how lucky all of the kids are to have a teacher who looks for the gifts in all students.

    And how lucky I am to have such a sweet BloggyFriend who jumped at the chance to share her insights and talents with other readers.

    I’ve already downloaded the activity and I am ready to use it on Monday. Thanks for sharing!

    Kim
    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. Julie says:

    I love this article. Mrs. Kerr has been a blessing to my son. He has learned soo much for him. He has been doing 6th grade level math! We were all concerned about how well he would do in your classroom! Thanks for being my son’s teacher!

  3. Amy Marshall says:

    What a wonderful story!! I love hearing from general educators who get it – as a special educator I know how hard it can be to get a general education teacher who wants to take on the challenge. What a difference you’ve made for not only Logan but all his classmates who have undoubtedly learned much from this experience too! Thanks for linking to my blog – I just linked back to yours!!!

    Amy
    The Resource(ful) Room!

  4. Julie C. says:

    Mrs.Kerr,
    I had the pleassure of teaching Logan for all of his elementary career. He is a WONDERFUL kiddo! I miss him much!! It warms my heart to know that he has a caring teacher that is willing to teach to his learning style! KUDOS TO YOU!! Keep rock’n! Tell my swet Logan that Ms.Cobb says hello! Thanks for all that you do with him!!

  5. Sue Scott says:

    And this is why I love you Andrea. You made me cry. But what made me happy was that you were there for Logan. I don’t know that little boy, but your willingness to open your classroom and your heart to something/someone is why you were so successful and that boy was able to change your life for the better. Every kid deserves a chance like you gave Logan. Thank you for being willing to take a little autism journey. It’s the best trip I’ve ever been on and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    • Andrea Kerr says:

      Sue ~ you are my inspiration with kids with autism. You prove that those kids can achieve anything with the love and support of great parents!! Thank you for being such a great friend!

  6. S Forney says:

    So proud of you wish there were more teachers who took their job as serious as you

  7. Stacy says:

    Your story made my night… I appreciate your honesty and candidness… Logan sounds like an outstanding young man… and from what I can tell… he has a kick butt math teacher! Such an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it! :)
    Stacy
    Funky Fresh Firsties

  8. Gretchen Cole-Lade says:

    Oh, my gosh, Andrea….with your permission, may I please share this with my college class????? How lucky he is and how lucky you are!!

  9. Dawn says:

    I love this story! It’s amazing what kids can teach us. Slow down and be patient always seems to be a lesson I learn over and again.

  10. Phyllis Humphreys says:

    Andrea, Your post about Logan made me cry. I can tell you are an excellent teacher that loves and enjoys her students. Being the mother of three and a school board member for eight years, I have been in contact with many teachers. It was always so refreshing to work with a teacher that adapted and taught her students, not just her subject matter (if you know what I mean). Sometimes the whole class and definitely individual students required some adjustments to “how it is usually done”. Job well done Mrs. Kerr.

  11. Caitiln says:

    Wow, I love this post! It is amazing what our differently-abled children can teach us isn’t it?

    Caitlin
    Learning Ahoy!

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