by Chad Finkelstein
Old York Road Temple–Beth Am
So far this year I have helped out a few different students at my Hebrew school at Old York Road Temple Beth Am, and each one is unique. My first day, I was assigned to help a fourth grade boy who at first, I did not believe had autism. He just seemed like a kid who had a difficult time paying attention, and talked often. As time went on I realized he was not being disruptive on purpose, but that he did not understand subtle social guidelines such as when to stop joking and take the lesson seriously. At first it was difficult to work with him because he would not listen to me, and would always want an explanation for why what he was doing was improper. It is very difficult to explain to someone a concept, which comes to most people so naturally.
That is when I realized he did not want to be a bad child and disrupt the class to receive attention. He just did not realize that what he was doing was wrong, and when the teacher or I would say he should stop what he was doing, he would ask, “why?” like any fourth grader. It was obvious he wanted to be a better student, he was not sure how. After about two months, his behavior improved, and I did not believe he needed me to help him anymore. After that, I spoke with the teacher of the class and the man who assigned me to work with this student, and they agreed another boy needed my help more than the first boy. Honestly, the second boy did not truly need me and I just worked with the whole class for a few weeks. The last time I was with this class, I realized that the first boy’s behavior has gone back to the way it was in September, and I believe I will need to work with him again until he starts acting the way the teacher and he would like. With my TAP training, I will be well prepared to handle the situation.
Even though some days are difficult, I know that it is worse for this boy who just wants to be liked, and his classmates still think he is annoying. This experience has given me more respect for people with disabilities and the difficulty they face on a daily basis. Being a part of the TAP program has absolutely helped me to help these students the best I can, but in general, it is not so difficult to help out a kid with autism or just a kid who is having a difficult time understanding the lesson. In general, if a person is patient, remains calm, and gives positive feedback as much as possible, that person has the ability to be a great teacher.