Creative play after school

Jeffrey was a remarkable little boy who impressed the teacher every day with his smile and hard work. The boy happened to be a child with classic autism who was doing well out in general education.

Jeffrey did need some support from special education including the teacher in Room 623 but it was very limited. Each day the boy would start out in Room 623. The teacher would take him over to Resource and then he would go on by himself to his general education class.

Jeffrey liked to be in the general education program and was quite aware of being a bit different from some of the other children. The fact was: Jeffrey needed just a little support including monitoring from the special education teacher to be successful in his third grade classroom.

Jeffrey’s parents made sure the boy was getting all the outside help that he could.

Tutoring after class, speech therapy and occupational therapy were all programs that he received both in school and after school. All the work was pushing the boy forward.

Jeffrey was lucky. His parents were determined to make sure the boy would be as successful as possible with his God given talents.

The teacher had the benefit of watching the boy blossom from a timid child in the first grade to a boy that was more self-assured. Jeffrey entered the special education program in first grade. Initially, the teacher created an IEP that ensured that the boy successful in the general education program with limited special education support.

By second grade, Jeffrey needed resource help in reading to help him learn skills to dissect what he was reading. By third grade, the boy was doing well with a small amount of resource help primarily in reading.

The boy would typically go home to more work but the teacher reminded the parents that Jeffrey needed creative play time too. It was important to push Jeffrey as far as his abilities would let him. However, play therapy can be just as important as learning your ABC’s and 123’s. Time to to play on the computer or video center is not the kind of play that is needed.

It is interactive play with other children that is critical in the development of a child. Jeffrey needed play time to help him process information and develop social skills appropriate for his age level.

Jeffrey was moving forward in academics but the teacher was worried whether the boy was having enough interaction with his peers at play.

Team sports like soccer and simple play in a neighborhood playground are great opportunities for social interaction. The teacher had Jeffrey come to the classroom periodically to interact with some of the other children that were higher functioning like him.

Jeffrey loved the opportunity. In fact, with permission of his third grade teacher, Jeffrey was able to periodically bring a friend with him to room 623. He had a best friend, Timothy who loved to come to play. Jeffrey also had a good friend from the teacher’s room, Steven, who also enjoyed playing with Jeffrey.

Fortunately, Jeffrey’s parents were open to allowing their son some choice time after school. The teacher reminded them that the boy needed time to interact with others. Developing healthy play skills leads to the ability to better process more complex information.

Higher level thinking like calculus requires children to learn how to interact with not just numbers but also by applying the interaction skills they have learned as young children.

Jeffrey continues to amaze the teacher in his effort to learn. He knows he is different but a kind of different that is unique and special. The boy is a wonderful example to his peers of a kind, gentle boy with energy to learn.

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