A visit from the second grade

The annual Charro Days is a wonderful event to experience in Deep South Texas. Several days of festivities honor the rich Hispanic heritage of the area. With over eighty percent of the people of Hispanic ancestry, there is much to be proud of.

As a part of Charro Days, all of the children at Pullam Elementary School were invited to participate in a huge dance festival at the school. The students in Room 622 asked some of their friends in Ms. Orta’s class to join them in the La Raspa dance. Ms. Orta’s class gave a thumbs up to the idea. The question was: how would all of the children would do in such an activity? Many of the students in Room 622 hated loud noises, especially loud music.

So the two teachers brought their classes together to see how they would interact with one another. The teachers decided to form several circles with their students to intermix the two classes.

It was obvious from the very beginning that a few of the general education children were unsure of the other class. All of the children in Room 622 had a sensory perception disorder, primarily ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) which ranged from mild to severe. Denny was one of the children with more severe ASD. He started to laugh uncontrollably and run across the stage on the first practice day. Evelyn and Johnny moved away from the boy. Ida, however, didn’t. In fact, Ida ran up to him and grabbed the boy’s hand. “I will take care of Denny.” So Ida was selected with Josie to dance with the boy. As Ida grabbed Denny to dance, the other children moved into their groups and readied for the music.

When La Raspa began, it was obvious which children had extreme sensory issues with hearing. Edgar, Ivan and Jessica all immediately covered their ears. Some of the children asked why they were covering their ears. The teacher explained that sometimes noises were amplified for them. She said two of them even knew when trains were coming behind the school way before the rest of us. The teacher told them that it was kind of like a super hero that could hear things way ahead of time. The problem was sometimes it hurt so they covered their ears to control the vibrations. The answer satisfied the kids and they continued the dance preparation.

As the practice continued, some of the older students in Room 622 helped a few of the general education students too. All the children knew La Raspa. It was the same song they danced to in PE. The teachers enjoyed watching the children. The question remained: Would the actual dance day go as smoothly as the practices?

When the big day arrived in late February, the students came dressed in their outfits. The girls had beautiful traditional dresses while the boys were in white shirts, jeans, boots and bandanas. They all waited quietly during the performance. Theirs was to be one of the last of the morning. When the children went up on stage, Denny surprised the teachers as he tried to leap off the stage. He saw his mother. Ida was there to stop him. The teacher decided to have Denny sit during the dance on the stage as he might pull the tiny girl off with him. The children quickly adapted to the change and the dance went off smoothly, even when the music was too loud.

The next day, Brandon surprised the teacher when he asked if he could give his partner Sally a present. The teacher said yes. The boy walked into Ms. Orta’s class and gave his new friend a ring eraser. At first Sally was embarrassed but then a big smile came across her face as she thanked the boy. The two teachers smiled at all of the students, quite proud of their success.

Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher can be reached at downpamg@aol.com