The Block Island Times

Rhymes to Reason: The Superman then the Santa

By Sheridan Fisher Carley | Jan 02, 2013

Milton once said: "He who reigns within himself and rules passions, desires, and fears is more than a king."

Teachers are fortunate to have assistants, nurses, child study teams and principals to help determine a child's needs, even though the learning experience is a teacher's ultimate responsibility. You must be able to elicit input from other sources and develop a keen understanding of each unique child. Personality, physical growth and interpersonal skill have to be studied. In my teaching experience I made a point of doing a study evaluation of every child who entered my classroom. I went through times of frustration trying to figure out the needs of some special students.

One of my students came to start school in the fall. He was a bright child but there were signs that something was not totally right. He introduced himself as David. The first two weeks he seemed to adjust nicely, although I noticed a lot of blinking and a tick that he seemed to have in his face.

After two weeks he insisted that the class call him "Superman," and he would wear his Superman shirt and cape, daily. He would correct the children by telling them not to call him David and would get quite annoyed if they didn’t call him Superman.

I asked his parents to come in for a conference. They said that at home, too, he wanted to be called Superman.

A month later, he came to school dressed as Santa Claus. He told all the children he wanted to be called "Santa." I said that would be fine, except we would now call him "Santa David." He agreed.

After Christmas, I requested the nurse, the principal, a special education teacher and a speech therapist to observe him. They did at different times. They all agreed that something was not quite right.

I think the obsessive blinking and facial movements stuck in my head. There was a reason that David didn’t want to be himself. After observing him I felt maybe he knew he was blinking and knew his face was getting distorted and he didn’t have control all the time, so he felt if he became someone else, no one would notice. The parents were brought in and asked if they would consult a neurologist or a regular doctor for his blinking, and they agreed to have him seen privately.

David had Tourette Syndrome, and the help he got was outside the school system. In school, he went from strength to strength. He was a brilliant student in college, all As, and a wonderful pianist and trumpet player who is now going on to study at The Juliard School. He is aware of his special needs, and is a gift to society.

I feel everyone of us has a special need. I myself have never been able to tell the difference between my left and right. Giving me directions while I'm driving is very frustrating for any passenger in my car, and in my first career I was a physical education and health teacher. Try playing sports when your coach in basketball is yelling “Sherry, left, left,” and you can't tell which way that is! But I’d ask her, “Who has more fun than I do?” I’m sure she was frustrated beyond belief, but no one is perfect.

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