Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Someone could have gotten hurt"

"Someone could have gotten hurt," the teacher says, angrily, as I help sweep up the glass from the ancient schoolroom door. She walks by but does not help.
Two other teachers and I gingerly pluck knife-blades of glass out of the frame.

I try not to look inside, try not to do any thing that might give more attention to the situation and make it worse. A small boy, 8 maybe. is sitting quietly in the arms of the occupational therapist, while the secretary cleans the cuts on his hands.
He is not the someone she is talking about.

I had been in the computer room when I heard the crash. I walked by the P.T./O.T. room and saw the special ed teacher picking up another small boy, this one older but tinier, and carrying him out of the room. There were shards of glass in the hall where excited fifth graders were milling around.
"Is everyone okay?" I asked
"Henry is still in there," she said. So I walk in. The lights are off, the O.T. has a boy in his arms, there's no blood I can see. The oldest boy is walking around, flicking his fingers.
"Come on Henry" I said. He let me take him by the hand, which he doesn't normally do. He's not that type of kid. I lead him downstairs to the classroom and return to help sweep up the glass and call the nurse on the intercom.

These boys are not the someones she is talking about either.

One of the real kids, the kids that are her business, the kids that are the point of the school, the ones who can read and write and talk and let us know what's bothering them....one of them might have been hurt. You know, a child who is not autistic, not like the 3 boys in that room.

Never mind that the 120 year old school building has paper thin glass that rattles when doors slam. Later, I learn a kid shattered three panes last year by slamming a door -- a real kid. Kids throw things, kids pound things. It's the nature of kids, all kids, the real ones and the ones that they all wish would just go to another school and leave them all alone. And it's the nature of glass to break.

She walked by one more time, "It was just a matter of time, ladies," she said.

There are times when it almost hurts, when you can just feel it all break right open at the littlest thing. I felt that way Monday, watching a non-autistic boy, maybe a real boy by her estimation, sleep on the floor of the counselor's office. Oh, he has problems, behavior and sensory and home life, enough to put him on the borderline between her kids and and ours. He and I were supposed to be working on spelling words, but he was snoring. Maybe it was nothing, maybe he was up late watching cartoons. I also have heard more sinister rumors about his home life. Whatever made it so he couldn't sleep at home might be nothing, or it might be something I couldn't imagine. I sat in the counselor's office for over two hours, watching this tiny little guy under a throw blanket, sleeping so deep he scared me, sleeping so deeply he sometimes wets himself.

What I wanted to do was pull him in my lap, hold him like a momma does, or should, and promise him that he would be safe.

As I cleaned up the glass and listened to the ladies complain today, I envied the O.T. in there with the bleeding boy, holding him, keeping him calm.

Whatever battles these kids are fighting, against autism, against whatever else is going on in their lives that I don't know about, against learning disabilities and developmental disabilities, against the frustration of not being understood -- these battles are bigger than I can ever dream of. They are real, so real that it hurts.

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