Monthly Archives: January 2010

A fun guy

We were learning about germs today. The class teacher sprayed deodorant in the room, to show how germs can spread. The children had to stand up, as soon as they detected the scent. Finally, it reached me. It reminded me of ‘Scotch 45’, an aftershave from the 70’s which could also allegedly kill house flies and cure dogs of ringworm. I didn’t ask if it was from the teachers own personal toiletries collection.

We also conducted an experiment. Each child doused their hands in flour, then wandered around the classroom interacting. One such child, Iza, complained to me that the flour was in her eyes and she couldn’t see. Iza is though, a perennial complainer. I refer to her as “my shadow”, as she often walks behind me at playtime, complaining for the most part. She talks in such a small, fragile voice, I have to bend double just to hear her.

As we leafed through books about germs, she shrieked constantly at every image, eventually refusing to touch the pages. She said the images frightened her, as did the germs on the page. I suspect she may grow up to be one of those adults who constantly look like they need a glass of water and to be helped into a chair. I often wonder whether she will one day arrive at school in a space suit or immersed in bubble wrap.

Zak had some interesting questions. Do germs run for cover if he stamps his foot? Does he kill thousands of germs every time he sits down or stubs his toe? It might be having had a ‘gutful’ of the intoxicating smell of the aftershave, but I struggled to articulate an answer.


Friendship Island, all we ever dreamed of

I’d hoped ‘Friendship Island TM’ might be my salvation. Roisin had taken the increasingly temperamental Zak into her office and the board game seemed to have calmed him. We even completed his motor skills test in the playground, as the sun came out. We marched on the spot, tiptoed along lines and tossed a ball around, all in the name of mental health evaluation. For the first time in some time, I saw him smiling and laughing.

The previous day, I’d created a single human barricade to stop him getting his arse kicked, by every child he’s managed to annoy so far. At the end, as Roisin asked him if he’d had a nice day, he bluntly said ‘No’. I quickly seconded it. It could be worse, another Teaching Assistant told me of a child who brought a knife into school. She was 10.

I released a lot of pent-up frustration during a Māori War Dance. All the kids and staff joined in, wearing our red white and blue, as a mark of respect for the people of Haiti. Zak sat brooding on the sidelines, ‘Friendship Island’ population: 0.

That’s gotta hurt

The Multi-regional hypothesis states that Neanderthal Man are still among us. Judging by the guy on the tube today, who repeatedly took off and waved around his shoe, I’m tempted to believe it. Zak also displayed behaviour that wouldn’t have looked out of place next to a Woolly mammoth. And I know they didn’t co-exist pedants.

It was a day where both metaphorically and literally I was kicked in the knackers. Zak has very effectively alienated himself from everyone at school, kids and teachers alike. Once, his homeschool teacher told me of a Turkish child she worked with, who had the tendency to jump out of any open window. She described him as one of the few children she’s worked with worse than Zak. Right now, I’d take the”jumper”, you know what they say ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

At the moment I pour all my energy into making sure Zak stays out of trouble, and in school. In fact, such was my vigilance for him I didn’t see the arching miskick that landed squarely in my balls at playtime. Even the dinner ladies winced.

It’s all gone a bit Zola Bud…

Well, each day is proving eventful. I had to run after a kid who had stormed out of a PE session. The kid I was chasing after was barefoot, and determined to escape from the school and run home. I had to sprint past him and form a human barricade at the school gates. It must have looked a sight to any passers-by.

Zak had, with an almost disheartening inevitably, been involved. He had started the day promisingly though. His excitement about the sliding doors they have at his prospective Secondary school, was weird but infectious.

A lunchtime fracas later and he was telling me about suicidal thoughts. We took some time out to look at some google images of his city in Iran. The first three web pages were of hangings, whiplashed bodies and general barbarism. Eventually we arrived at more tranquil pictures of mountain ranges, hotels and Zak’s favourite topic, the airport.

To end a slightly fraught day, we all joined together for some Gospel singing. Enthusiastically sung by a choir of 300 pupils, John Farnham’s “You’re the Voice’ never sounded so good. If only we could harness the Power in ‘Power Ballads’ as a useful form of energy.

Call the cops!

One of the last things I expected to hear, first thing on a Monday morning, was “I called 911 last night Tim”. Zak stood before me in the playground, beaming like it was some feat of ingenuity, “I just dialled 911 from my mobile and spoke to a police officer”. It turns out, he just wanted to “find out how american police talked”.

The problem was now explaining why it was wrong, to an autistic child. I managed it, but it took 10 minutes (breaking the previous record of the 9 minutes it took for me to explain the joke “How do you stop an elephant squirting water?” “Tie a knot in its trunk” – I don’t have the energy to go into the difficulties I faced resolving this one).

The day had started so badly too. In the mornings I head to the library toilets, an oasis of calm (I’m regular as clockwork too). Unfortunately, there were kids loitering around for no clear reason. It remind me of a Winston Churchill quote. While in the toilet, Churchill was summoned to meet a colleague he hated, “I can only deal with one shit at a time” he quipped.

To top what was a largely indifferent day, while helping a kid with a slideshow presentation, he remarked that I “sounded like a beggar who came to my house looking for money yesterday”.  To paraphrase Churchill “Never before has my skin required to be so thick”.

You put your left leg in, left leg out

Zak has grown by three centimetres. Roisin measured him and confirmed it. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it might be because he’d spiked his hair. He’d gelled it especially for his day long assessment with the local education authority. They will decide whether he has a special educational need.

Zak had not made a good start to the day. He’d yawned, slumped and completely tuned out of his time in the classroom. The only time he spoke, was to ask me how much a small horse is. I shrugged and told him to pay attention. He was oblivious to the examiner behind us, surreptitiously making notes. She, incidentally, didn’t know either.

After the lesson, I said goodbye to him at the school gates and crossed my fingers. Without him, I found the rest of the day quite liberating. I didn’t have to check his every move in the playground (three near fights in three days, for the statisticians among you) or have to leave my school dinner to turn cold, when he’d walk out of the canteen.

I completed a report on Zak for the assessor and struggled to find that many positives. “The most important thing” observed one of my fellow teaching assistants, “is that you like him”. It’s true, I do. He is polite, respectful and good to be around, but this is only in seclusion.

At the end of the day, Roisin passed me a letter. It contained a list of things such as ‘can tie shoe laces’ ‘recognise own body parts’ ‘hop on either foot’ and ‘march in time to a beat’. Initially I thought the test was for me. “Can I tip toe along a line and then stand on my left leg for 20 seconds?” I thought “well, I’ll give it a go”. They were, in fact, tests for Zak’s motor co-ordination. I expect we will have fun with this next week. Apparently he gets an extra mark if he can stop a small horse’s heart just by staring at it.


It all went a bit ‘Lord of the Flies’ today (thankfully without the death of an obese child). We were all gathered in the playground, awaiting the call to go to lunch. Suddenly, a small group of children, wielding drinking straws, began to chant “We want lunch! We want lunch!”. It quickly became infectious, more children joined in, more straws appeared, the voices grew louder “WE WANT LUNCH! WE WANT LUNCH!”.

I was the only adult there and without an armored riot control vehicle or water cannon to hand, I wasn’t sure what to do. I had visions of being raised aloft and used as a battering ram for access to the canteen. What could a couple of hundred kids do to me though, armed with only bendy straws? Actually, I shudder to think.

With the uprising eventually quashed, we settled down to lunch. I have to admit the kids played a sly and thoroughly convincing practical joke on me. A girl joined us at the table and stared at me. It was a little disconcerting, so after a few minutes, I felt compelled to introduce myself to her. She just continued to stare. I asked why her behaviour was so odd, “she’s mute” a girl told me “she has never spoken”.

“Oh, I see” I said “do you know if she understands me?”. The girl nodded, so I persevered with the ‘starer’. I spoke very slowly to her, “h-e-l-l-o, m-y n-a-m-e i-s T-i-m”. The girl’s face broke into a wide smile “I know” she said.

I thought I’d made a major breakthrough!. Just as I was beginning to think how my surname sounds between the words ‘groundbreaking‘ and  ‘technique’, I realized by the collective laughter that I’d been well and truly ‘kid’ded.