A tutor reflects on how every child with autism deserves reassurance in moments of distress and sensory overload.
Everyone needs to be assured, reassured, and sometimes promised that things are going to be alright. My story consists of two different schools and two different kids, but they both needed the same thing, which was reassurance that everything would be fine.
At MW’s school, there was an assembly to be held in the cafeteria. The other TA’s (teaching assistants) were gathering supplies like they were going to war—things like headphones, pipe cleaners, and putty. This was during my early days of employment so I didn’t understand what they were doing or appreciate the preventative measures they were taking to help the students face the upcoming sensory overload they were about to experience.
I was assigned to sit with MW. The topic of the assembly escapes me right now, but that doesn’t matter, what happened next does. In the cafeteria there was a low humming/buzzing noise. I thought it was annoying, but you wouldn’t believe the dire impact the noise had on some of the children.
I was sitting beside MW and I could see tears running down his face. I said: “Don’t worry MW, you’ll be okay, I got ya!” He shook his head and kept repeating: “I got ya!” Every time he repeated it to himself he got louder and louder. I felt so bad. The cafeteria was awfully close to where the other TAs had stocked up on supplies, and it started making sense to me.
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At another school many years later I was working with OT. At one point, I really didn’t like working with OT. He would randomly “go off” on TAs and I wasn’t looking forward to receiving any of the blows he had given to other TAs and even teachers.
This particular day we were going to do a lockdown drill. The idea of drills to practice hiding from shooters at school still mystifies me; I never had to do anything even close to that when I was younger.
So the teacher tells us that we’re going to have a lockdown drill. He was concerned about how OT would react to the loud noises and the classroom door being closed—OT didn’t like things like that. I personally saw that, although he is small in stature, when he got upset a superhuman strength possessed him.
I got assigned to sit right beside OT throughout the drill.
Before the drill started, I got a pair of headphones for him to use. The teacher and I joined him and sat down. I grabbed his hand, looked him in the eyes, and said: “Nothing’s going to happen to you right now, I’ll be sitting here right beside you, I promise that you have nothing to worry about, I got you!”
This article was featured in Issue 123 – Autism In Girls
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