The 7-year-old special ed aide

Miss Brave is trying to teach 28 second graders in a New York City school, including Julio, who belongs in a small special ed class.  Easily frustrated, Julio responds by “pounding on his desk and punching himself in the head.”  Teaching without an aide, Miss Brave asked her most responsible student to be Julio’s “buddy” and now thinks: I’ve turned a seven-year-old girl into a “para” (teacher’s aide).  How fair is that?

* He has started singing, humming, pounding on his desk, kicking at his desk, and grabbing his desk and shaking it aggressively, all during what is supposed to be a quiet working period.

* The other day, he got upset, so he took everything out of his desk, hurled it to the floor, and then flopped himself on top of it and lay there.

I assigned him a “buddy” whose job is (a) to help him find things in his desk (because whenever I ask the class to take out a certain book or folder, he yells out, “I CAN’T FIND IT!” and starts taking everything out of his desk and throwing it to the floor) and (b) to remind him what he is supposed to be doing (because every time we’re supposed to be working independently, he yells, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DOOOOOO!” and starts up with the punching himself in the head and shaking his desk around). And God bless her, his buddy has taken on that role and more — whispering “Julio” and pointing to his sticker chart when he starts humming and/or singing and fidgeting, showing him what page to turn to, etc. The day that he threw everything out of his desk and then threw himself on top of the carnage, she got up without a word and began helping him return everything to his desk. That’s when I realized: Carly is his para.

Julio’s mother doesn’t want him in special education, fearing he’d “fall behind,” but he’s now on a long waiting list for a special class. Meanwhile, he gets no special services.

Doing his Hulk routine, Julio hurt himself, taking a chunk of time from the math lesson. Miss Brave wants to help Julio, but she doesn’t want to hurt her other 27 students.

Am I dooming my students to a lifetime of fearing impulsively violent classmates and being cast aside while emergencies like this one continue to build?

Julio’s mother volunteered to sit with him in class a few times a month to help  him focus, but the assistant principal rejected the offer, saying it would be “disruptive to other students.” Unlike the current situation.

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