The Teacher’s Pet

As the school year came to a close, the teacher and her staff enjoyed talking about the progress of each child. Sometimes, a student would make limited progress even after two years then suddenly jump in ability.

The teacher saw that children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) were like sponges. They would soak up information until the sponge was full. Then the light suddenly came on and the children moved forward academically and socially.

She had a few children who never talked and then suddenly after a few years speech came. In some cases it was by using a communication device but they talked.

Billy was a very sweet child that came into her room from the PPCD unit. In preschool, the boy had been anxious and withdrawn. As a timid child he would barely speak. When the boy did, it was very limited. For example, the teacher would ask Billy each day “What did you have for breakfast?” or “What did you in your first grade class this morning?” Billy’s typical answer was “I don’t know.”

Then she gave him two choices with the last choice being the answer. Over time, Billy began to change. A lot of the change was due to using the Floortime Therapy Model. Classic play and interaction with the staff and friends made a huge difference for Billy.

His play time with his best friend Rory was helping Billy’s communication. Even the boy’s overall comprehension was improving as a wonderful by-product of that friendship.

One day when Billy came into Room 623 after his resource class, the teacher decided to try something different. The boy had been in her classroom for five years and knew the daily routine as well as anyone in the room.

Every day the class does circle time where educational songs are sung to improve speech clarity and academics. At the end, the children go over the calendar, the weather and do lots of counting, backwards, forwards and skipping by twos. The teacher surprised Billy by asking him asked teacher.

Billy was thrilled. He asked Norman went over to the window to check the weather. Norman was the youngest of the room and needed lots of prompting to understand what was expected of him. When Norman came back to put the weather out, Norman told Billy that it was sunny out. Billy knew it wasn’t just cloudy. He asked the boy, “Did you see clouds?” “Yes,” Norman answered. “Then which one is it?” as he held out two pictures: one sunny, one partly cloudy.

As Norman chose the second one Billy exclaimed, “Oh, you picked partly cloudy.” “What about tomorrow Norman?” Normal smiled and grabbed the sunny icon and answered, “Sunny.”

As Billy switched to the calendar, he began to ask the different students what day it was, is and will be. For those that could not answer correctly, the boy modeled what the teacher had done. She typically offered two choices, the second being the correct one. The teacher noted the children were being well behaved with Billy. They loved it him playing teacher.

Billy made sure everyone that could participate did. The students all sang out the numbers in unison on the calendar including the countdown to the end of the year. In fact, they sang the numbers far better than they ever did for adults. It was fun to watch the interaction between the children. Billy was gaining in confidence and loved his new responsibility.

The teacher decided to let Billy try being teacher the next day. She discovered that he did the exact same order of asking the children as the previous day. In fact each time she asked Billy to help, he always asked the same question to the same child. His ASD was in play but he also knew to help each child be successful. Billy was an amazing little boy who had grown up and blossomed.

Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher can be reached at