Friday, May 29, 2009

The Presence of a 1:1 Aide

Reid's school Talent Show was Wednesday. Horray! He transferred his musical skills to a new domain by auditioning, rehearsing, and performing without the aide of music therapist per se, but rather, teachers who are musical. The whole experience was a culmination of many goals mastered and an opportunity for the faculty to see a different facet of Reid.

Picture his solo of "People All Get Ready" by The Frames on a cavernous black stage all by his little lonesome in a glaring spotlight with his skinny knees pulsating rapidly up and down in panic.

He also did this dance number with his classmates:

Yes, I notice he is a whole head taller than the elementary age kids. Granted, it's time to transition him to the Adolescent Program upstairs. Clearly, he has the initiative of Aesop's fabled hare. Anyone can see how much loves the limelight! Not to mention, he can bust a dance move like none other. (Do I need to tell you he is the one on the far right?)

A spiritual point worth making struck me later that day. As I drove back to our "home district," it was dismissal time at the local elementary school. What a contrast to the footage I was excitedly viewing on my digital camera at a red light (living dangerously, I know). A host of schoolchildren congregated on the unprotected sidewalk of a busy artery waiting for two crossing guards to escort them 3 blocks safely under a freeway to residential streets beyond. The ratio had to be 40:2 at least.

I nearly gasped imagining Reid in that crowd with the inherent dangers of his impulsivity and sensory issues. What a "new normal" we have carved out for ourselves. Never could he exist, let alone thrive, in that size crowd.

Did you notice the ratio of adults (in the back row of the video clip) to students in the little troupe? With your trained eye, you probably recognize them as classroom aides. They are close at hand should anything go awry. It never does; for their mere presence ensures the kids' best behavior.

A reasonable assumption at Reid's school is that every student has significant behavioral challenges. Pleasantly surprised by their competence, my husband and I actually whispered in wonderment during the show. It's none of our business, but tempting nonetheless, to armchair diagnose his classmates. For this hour of time, it was hard to tell. Rest assured though, they are there with good cause and at large expense.

Classes are typically a 3:1 ratio with ancillary staff circulating as "problem solvers" on call and close at hand if required to intervene or enforce. Ever so gradually, they wean the kids off the dependence of the shadow aide they may have had in their referring school. Progress is measured by independence, self-control and functioning in a larger group.

What also impresses me (reviewing the video) is how little the aides actually do. Really they just stand there making their jobs look easy and planning to be obsolete. No verbal prompts, not much physical maneuvering, no big sticks, no PECS cards, no modeling hand motions, no hand-over-hand.

This is an illusion. The reality is they have worked strenuous, painstaking hours to get to this point. They've established their authority, consistency and expectations elsewhere. By May at the Talent Show, it is their presence alone that reinforces desired actions and appropriate behavior. Tenuous, but certain success.

Jesus was with us for just a little while on earth. He performed miracles and invested arduous hours in sandals teaching on the road. Then it was time for Him to leave. Now, even while He mysteriously lives in our hearts, it is largely dependent on us to tune into His presence. When I enter into His presence, I sense Him behind me, next to me, with me, leading me. That awareness keeps me on my toes behaviorally. Knowing He is close, elevates my thinking and aspirations. He holds me accountable silently without force. Just by being there.

What does being in God's presence mean to you? Would you leave it in a comment....

Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present... 1 Corinthians 5:2-4

For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
Colossians 2:4-6

God said, "Don't come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You're standing on holy ground." Exodus 3:4-6


  1. Cute video!

    Words that pop into my mind when I think about being in God's presence: freedom from the slavery of sin, security when everything around me screams insecurity, peace in the midst of chaos.

    BTW - Thanks for the comment you left on my blog.

  2. Thank you for posting the video. Thank you for spoiling my makeup. What a sweet dance number! It's just great. So many options are open to our special kids, and so many want to make so many decisions for them, about them. What would Jesus do with them? Hold them even closer? Bend down and look at the bugs with them? Laugh when they windmill down the hills? Or would He tell us they just need more speech therapy so they talk more like everyone else... That they could never be in with the other kids, because they're too "different?" When our kids are too loud in church, does Jesus wince? Or just the other congregants? Thank you for reminding me of His presence in our every moment.

  3. I LOVE REID!!! My heart just soared seeing him bust a move.

    Such a powerful analogy, Andrea. 'Knowing He is close, elevates my thinking and aspirations. He holds me accountable silently without force.' Amen! The verse that comes to mind is "In your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forever more." (Ps. 16:11) May we tune in to His presence even more.

  4. I love seeing this video of Reid! He has come a long way and it is exciting to see what his new "normal" is.

    God's presence....when we are aware of it and in tune with it, it transforms our outlook and helps us to see so much more clearly the world around us.

    Thanks for your insights!