Monday, March 24, 2014

Mustache 2.0

This morning I made an important life decision whilst shaving in the bathroom (sorry you ran out of hot water in the shower Heather but this was quite a debacle). I decided to leave a mustache to go with the always present, under the lip, triangle. I had been pondering this for about a week and pulled the trigger this morning. Now I know that some find the mustache to be silly. Even hipster doofus. Allow me to explain (not that I feel as if I have to justify what's on my upper lip to anyone).

About 2 weeks ago, I found myself in my classroom with a few of my students. Now...I really do enjoy working with all of them but I do have one in particular that simply fascinates me. I damn near spent 4 days straight with him at 6th grade camp this year (1:1 situation). For obvious reasons, I won't go into grave detail but I will say that this particular student has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. As such, things like social communication (joint attention, turn taking during conversation, and eye contact) are all things that we work on every day. I am constantly trying to stretch him and support the rest of his teachers in doing the same. He's come a looong way and in the last month, I've begun to see a change.

For some reason on this particular day (don't judge me) I decided it would be a good idea to draw a mustache on the inside of my finger with a Sharpie. Then I thought it would be a better idea to put said finger up to my lip and raise my eyebrows at this student. I was stunned when he laughed and maintained eye contact. Then he made farting noises with his mouth and we both laughed. The rest of that day as we would walk around the school, he would stop teachers that weren't even his (I'm sure he didn't know them) and tell me to show them my finger. He really wanted me to put it up to my lip but that's a lot to ask. I would do it and he would laugh and laugh. Later that day, I held my finger up to his nose and he looked in the mirror and thought it was a riot. He said he was growing to grown one. Then he wanted to walk around the school and find more people and show them. Each time, I would put my finger up to his lip and he would make a face and say, "Hmmmmmmmm." And then laugh uncontrollably. This went on for days. Then he started doing more things that amazed me. We sat in my office and he started playing peek a boo with me behind a backpack that was on a table. And he would laugh and laugh. There was more but I'm sure it's not as encouraging for you as it is for me so I won't bore you with the details.

His mother happened to be out of town but I talk frequently with her and was letting her know how I was corrupting her child. She returned home last weekend. This student checks in with me every morning because it's part of his routine. Months ago he would simply stand there and I would do all the talking. Now he enters the class, says good morning, greets other teachers and I try to have 3-4 verbal exchanges with him while maintaining eye contact. On Monday he enters my office (always with a stack of books/binders) and he's trying to hold them all in one hand which is not working out and I can see a yard sale in the future. With his other hand he is trying desperately to unzip his hoodie. He always wears this hoodie zipped up so I was curious as to what was going on. As he got closer I said,  "Hey buddy...what's up? Are you hot and trying to get that thing off?" Then I grabbed his books because he didn't answer but he had this smirk on his face. He unzips his hoodie, pulls it open and reveals to me a t shirt that has a giant hand on it with the index finger extended. On the finger was a mustache. We laughed hard and he hugged me. I almost cried. His mom had gotten it for him after we spoke while she was out of town. This is huge for a student with this disability. Since then something has clicked. I have witnessed him be more social with others. It's amazing to see and even better to be a part of it.

So...I'm on Spring Break and won't see my little buddy until next week. So...I'm going to grow a mustache for him. If having hair on my upper lip will continue to make him stretch socially then hair on my upper lip I shall have. Oh don't worry...I'll be posting updates. I've had short lived mustaches before but they usually don't last long. If only I still had my van. That would really complete the look.

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