Thursday, December 16, 2010


I end my school days on a rather delightful note teaching English to a group of boys who fall more on the autism spectrum than the behavioral. Though they certainly present their own behavioral challenges, somehow you just can't get as frustrated with a student who isn't following directions because he's still pondering if a double-spaced paper requirement means he should hit the space bar twice between every word (my resident Amelia Bedelia), or one that's not paying attention because he's dying to discuss last night's re-run of Star Trek with his friend. Even laying the law down in this class can end up a lot of fun. At the beginning of the year, finding that I had a rowdy class that constantly spoke out of turn, I decided to declare myself a radio tower which could only be reached by raising one's antennae (hand). Any interference (talking out) would interrupt the connection and therefore the radios (students) and tower(me) could not communicate.

Characteristic of many people with autism is above average abilities in categorizing and analyzing technical information. Thus, one of the areas of English in which these students excel is root word vocabulary practices. This past week the root was "Dict" (yeah, whoever had the hot idea of making a teacher say "dict" 20 times in a period to a class of 7th graders must have been in an evil mood). While working with common words like dictation, predict, contradict, etc, one of the students, Tommy, was so astute as to observe that the name Benedict contained the root. Being the Word Nerd I am, I launched into a mini lesson about the combination of Latin roots to form meaning. "Dict" being the Latin root for "speak" and "bene" the Latin for good, the name Benedict can actually be understood as "Good speaker".

Legitimately impressed with this information, Ryan--the most emotionless, expressionless, black-and-white kid I have ever met in my life--pointed out that he had once eaten something called Eggs Benedict. Very familiar with the linear minds of my students at this point, I could have guessed easily what was coming next. In fact, as I recall, I'm pretty sure I had already opened my mouth to say "And no that doesn't mean..."

But Ryan beat me to the punch.

Ryan: "Does that mean when I'm eating Eggs Benedict it means I'm eating eggs that are good speakers?"

Having predicted this response didn't make me laugh any less along with the rest of my very easily amused class. I suppose the fact I lost it merely picturing eggs spouting off Shakespeare, makes me just as easily amused.

The icing on the cake was the pride Ryan demonstrated in having entertained the class. I don't think he even cracked a full smile as he followed up in perfect monotone with,

"Heh heh. I just made a funny."

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