M and the substitute teacher.


Last week, M said that his usual teacher would not be in class on Tuesday of this week – yesterday.    He did not know why.

I imagine when the teacher told the class she was not going to be there, she would have told them why, but M did not take that piece of information in.    I imagine his mind went into panic mode as soon as she mentioned she would not be there.   His teacher is what school is about.

It was not mentioned again, and I must admit I had totally forgotten about it.   I would have talked him through there was going to be changes during the day had I remembered.     Instead, he came out of school saying he had a different teacher.

He seemed quite up beat about it, as the teacher he had was one of the numerous teachers he had been taught by last year.     Having had so many teachers over his short school history, he is used to having different people in charge, but it is a different kettle of fish when it is for just an odd day. and now he is settled with one teacher he respects.

It didn’t take long to see the disturbance of the day had taken its toll on his state of mind.

The boys  had their Jazzercise class after school, and he became very stroppy when told to get changed.    He then became agitated with some of the other pupils, and I had to pull him to one side to help him calm down.       He got so angry that he actually bit D’s arm during the sit down time.     The only positive there is that it was D that he attacked and not another child.

When we got home, we went through his homework list to see what needed doing.    He had forgotten to bring home his maths sheet, which led to the next meltdown.   Maths is the only part of his homework that he actually does without fighting me, so not having it just sent him to misery.          He then pulled out the work he had been doing in the class.    He had a word search he was doing in class, in Spanish.        I didn’t know he was learning Spanish, so I asked him about it.   Queue another meltdown.      He finally told me that he was doing it to look at letter patterns rather than learning the language.       If that is right I don’t actually know at this stage.

His mood continued to grumble all through tea, and up until bedtime.       He was angry with the world.   Nothing said to him could change it.     When we sat to read before bedtime, he used such a nasty voice, that it was actually quite scary and it didn’t fit with a book about a caterpillar.     He didn’t want to be comforted.

When he got into bed he asked me if his regular teacher would be back today.     I said I believed so, but as I didn’t know why she was off and had just had M mentioning it in passing, I wasn’t certain.     However, sometimes it’s not what you say, but how convincing you say it!          This seemed to be enough to comfort him and he then asked for Mumma cuddles, something he doesn’t often ask for.      I think his meltdowns had led not just to physical exhaustion, but mental too.   He was washed out.

To most children a day with a substitute teacher can be a break from the routine that can liven up a week – even if you love the regular teacher.      But for a child with autism it can be a total nightmare.    It is something that is just plain wrong in his mind.     His teacher is meant to be there, he trusts her, he needs her.     She is the one person outside of the house he feels looks after him, and her being missing must really hurt him.      He has been let down.        It might seem a totally selfish reaction, but it is how he sees the world around him.   He doesn’t understand or care about how other people feel about something, he only cares that things he expects to be happening aren’t.

I think we will ask the teacher to let us know if she has scheduled days out of the classroom in future.   This way we can discuss it with him, so he is aware it will not be a bad thing, and that it is not permanent.    We don’t want him thinking he is going to start changing teachers every other week again now he has found somebody he trusts!

In the mean time, his regular teacher was in class this morning, and I had a very jolly wee man home for lunch!    So we are back on track and yesterday is behind us.

There is no truer statement than to say every day is a learning journey.     We learn from mistakes, and hopefully use this information to try to avert a similar problem another time!



4 responses »

  1. This experience you relate brought back so many memories for me. Our younger daughter is unbelievably sensitive to all change, to all emotions, and to all situations. When she was younger every day was a guessing game to figure out what was going on in her mind that was causing the screaming fit of the day (thankfully she was able to hold it in until after school every day). It took several years (and a very helpful book titled “The Explosive Child”) for us to learn how to help her through these episodes. Truly fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants parenting every day. It was exhausting, and so I very much admire your constant patience and concern with your boys. Thanks for sharing! -Amy

  2. That’s a good idea, about preparing M for any potential change of teacher.

    What a tough, tough day, though. You must have been exhausted by the end of the experience, never mind poor M.

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