A Special Teacher; A Special Student (All names changed to protect privacy)

I recently heard an inspiring story. 

It’s about Melissa, a teenager with a genetic disorder with a co-morbidity of autism. She can understand a lot, but has no verbal communication skills. She signs. So you’ve got to learn the signs she knows if you want to communicate with her. If you want her to communicate with you. 

Melissa had earned a name for herself in the school she went to. And it wasn’t for good behavior. It was for aggression, actually. And she is quite strong, it seems. Not too many people wanted to work in her classroom. It would only be someone who likes to take on a challenge.  She’s had many behavior intervention plans over the years. Some didn’t work. Some worked for a short time. But nothing was effective long-term.  

Then, last summer, she had a new teacher. A skilled BCBA, who took the class for the summer. Who was up to the challenge. Who had a plan of how to approach Melissa and her high rates and high intensity aggression. 

First, she created an enriched program. Addressing all her IEP goals, with a mature twist. Her schedule was full. And tight. No down time. 

Then, she listened. It sounds basic, but when Melissa would communicate, she’d listen. When she’d sign that she wanted to skip snack, she’d listen. The teacher would allow for reasonable changes in the schedule. Melissa is a teenager, after all, and she had the right to request changes at times.  

Would you know? 

All summer long, Melissa had zero instances of aggression. 

She was happy. 

She was content. 

She had no reason to bother anyone. 

I guess aggression can sometimes be called communication


It took a special teacher to teach a special girl.