Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Magic Chicken

I may have mentioned before that one of the students in my homeroom this year is a guy who is in our school's functional life skills program, which is designed for people who are cognitively or intellectually impaired. He comes every morning with an instructional assistant whose job it is to help keep him on track as he participates in the same activities we all do.

A few days ago, though, I noticed that he did not stand during the Pledge. It was possible (but doubtful) that he didn't realize where we were in our morning routine, but when the assistant prompted him, he refused to stand. He is on the autism spectrum and verbal communication is at a minimum for him, but it is far from impossible to get through to him.

As soon as the minute of silence was over, grabbing my novelty chicken, the one that plays a little song and lays candy eggs, I walked over to the kid right next to him. "Kieran," I said, "did you stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance today?"

Kieran eyed me with some confusion. "Uhhh," he started, "yes?"

"Good job!" I congratulated him. "Thank you for doing what you were supposed to do. Have a candy egg!"

Kieran pushed on the plastic poultry which clucked a merry tune and delivered a chewy sweet tart to him. I moved to the next student. "Edwin? Did you stand for the pledge?"

And so it went. With each student who received candy, my non-stander's eyes grew wider. Finally he could take it no more. He came over to me. "D?" I asked him. "Did you stand for the pledge?"

He was silent, which is not unusual for him.

"Oh, that's right," I said. "You did not follow the directions today." I shook my head sadly and held the chicken. "I hope you will tomorrow!"

His hand flew to his heart and he recited the pledge as fast as he could.

"Great!" I told him. "Do it just like that tomorrow!"

And he did!

Meanwhile, there was another student who has been chronically late to school recently, but he made it to homeroom that day. He watched first with confusion, and then in amazement as I again offered each student the chicken.

"When did this happen?" he asked. "When did we start getting candy for standing up during The Pledge of Allegiance?"

"I know, right?" I told him. "You should totally make it here on time!"

And he has!

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