The autism program was at another school last year and moved to our school this year. This student joined us the first day, first thing in the morning and the class immediately accepted him and were interested in getting to know him. It was new to my students, so they were motivated to understand him and be friends with him.
Right away a few students took him under their wing and invited him to play basketball with them at recess. They played knock out and this opened up a passageway into his personality. He loves Slamacow productions which are animated minecraft videos. He would take the ball and yell, "Slamacow 6A!" He taped it on the back of his shirt. The students loved this and started taping numbers on their backs because he kept asking, "What's your number?"
He joined our class for math, science and specials (art, music, PE), as well as for recess and lunch. Here was another window into understanding him. It was very powerful for students to see that he was really good at math and, at times, better than them. They were also impressed with his talented drawings. The chance to work with him in these classes built the relationship they had with him.
When he didn't want to leave the classroom one day, he began to scream and hit himself on the head. The students were worried for him and we had a follow up talk with his one on one teacher about what they saw, why he does that, and what they can do when that happens. It was important for them to know they are safe and that he needs to see how to act. Their job is to do their job and let the adult help him. Many times, the adult would say, "What are your friends doing right now?" He would look around and adjust his behavior. Very powerful.
It was heartbreaking having to tell my class that our new friend was moving and wouldn't be in our class anymore. They all made cards and one parent took the initiative to get a card and a school t-shirt/teddy bear for kids to sign. I ordered a jersey online that had his name on the front and "Slamacow 6A" on the back with a big 6, so it looked like a team jersey.
Yesterday, we presented the shirts and cards, played his favorite Angry Birds jenga-like game, watched a few Slamacow videos and played an epic knockout game with the entire fifth grade class. It was a stellar last day! He was happy and not sad at all, which I think helped my students to not be as sad as they could have been. One student cried and the rest coped by naming Friday official Slamacow day in his honor. Very sweet! We spent the last few minutes dancing to "Everything is Awesome," from the Lego movie and, well, everything really was awesome!