by Adam Weiss, Temple Sinai

There are so many things that I have learned over the year. From disabilities mentally and physically to tips how to help them to ways how to bond with our 1-on-1 child, it’s been a fun time. However, this fun could be seen as a rollercoaster. I work with a fourth grade class. What’s funny about the situation is that my mom taught most of them during pre-school two years in a row. So, already knew most of them when I walked in on the first day. However, Nathan wasn’t one of them. I didn’t know much about him walking in. I knew his name, that he was on the autism spectrum, and that I was his 1-on-1 on Sundays. That’s really not much to go off of, or at least it isn’t in my mind. So, I spent the first month mainly observing what he was doing. I did help him a lot with work like I do now, but they didn’t tell me that he loses focus a lot and found out that Nathan is on the higher side of the autism spectrum. He gets distracted easily and likes to keep on the same joke for at least 10 minutes. At times he can be touchy and a bit vulgar, but that’s only a quarter of the time. All of these things makes him who he is and makes his autism unique to himself. The Nathan that I know is smart, funny, and loves to dance. Sometimes he is prone to eat by himself during break, but other times he goes and talks to his friends and has the biggest smile on his face. He is a great kid and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the world has in store for our adventure together.

The tricks that I mainly stole from TAP were getting on his level and tapping on the desk to make sure that he could see me and hear me. I figured out soon that once in a while a break in the hallway would be good. But most of the time, he would not want to go out on one in fear of “not finishing a project on time” or “seeming different.” He wanted to seem as normal as possible despite the fact that nobody is normal. So, my main goal for the year was to increase his amount of focus. Whether it was from one to two minutes or one to five minutes, I wanted to see him improve. And so far, he is. I can go around the room and check quickly if anyone nearby has any questions before I need to go back and make sure that he is focused on his work.

The other challenge that Nathan and I face is what his loss of focus leads him to. Since he lost focus so much in the beginning, he would see and other students would see that he would be working on a worksheet when everyone else would be working on an art project, so he would get mad and usually break down. This is where breaks save my day. Sometimes it is hard to get him away from his work because he experiences the stress of due dates, a thing in everybody’s life. However, when I do get him out of the room, he likes to step on the blue squares only and get a drink to feel better. Then, he gets back to his work and finishes as quick as possible to work on the next thing.

I feel that Nathan and I are now bonding. We still have some time to go and some mileage to cover before we are best friends, but he is improving and I am so happy to think that I am part of this process. That’s what makes me proud to be a TAP teen: seeing what you can do to help change others for the better. Somebody can start out in a rough spot, but you can help them to rise up and become better. I know that him and I have had a great first half of the year, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of our adventure goes as we go and conquer the world.