Is it 6 a.m. already? Interesting night! I had dreams that my daughter with special needs was pregnant; that I was considering moving to Texas; that the plane ticket to go to Texas and check it out was too expensive; that I had a job at a coffee shop and one of my students was my co-worker. I guess interesting days bring interesting nights!
The other day, one of my students was threatened at a city bus stop located in a mall parking lot. Another student verified his story. The two male students were not able to get on the bus because it was full and had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. Meanwhile, my student fed and chased birds in the parking lot.
A man came out of a nearby fast food restaurant and screamed, swore, and threatened to kill my student. I could only conclude he was angry because my student was attracting the bird by feeding them. My student swore at the man. When he got to school late, he was still so angry that it took a couple of hours before he could cool down and join us in our cleaning tasks.
That event got me to thinking: I am training my students to be out in the Detroit metro area, to take public transportation, and to hold down a job. Ironically, my students with physical disabilities and Down syndrome are usually treated more kindly than the others and I think it is because there are physical clues to their disabilities.
Many of my students, however, show no physical signs of a disability and their behaviors are often misinterpreted. It is not until you hold a conversation with them or see some of their actions that you realize they may have some disabilities.
A job coach at my school told me a similar story about one of her students in a restaurant job site. Her student was clearing tables and one of the customers at another table asked her to take his steak back because it was overdone. The girl did exactly as she was told and took it in the back to the dish room . . . and that was it. The customer was furious because no new steak appeared.
How do I prepare my students for the real world, where many people will not be patient and understanding? How can I prepare them to stay safe? This particular morning, I dealt with that question by calling the police department and reporting the bus stop incident my student had told me about. They offered to send a patrol car through the area when several of our students are waiting for the bus. Is it enough?
It is now 6:30 a.m. and time to get my own two children up and moving. May all of us and our students stay safe.