Success for James

So there I was at 4:00pm sat in my silent empty classroom, 30 minutes after the infamous ‘end of school’ bell had rung and 100’s of children raced for their freedom outside of the school gates. I was sat there racking my brain on how I was going to get James to “enjoy “ story time.

To be honest at times I questioned whether I was doing the right thing….

But I had to remind myself that at this stage I wasn’t expecting James to like story time but simply tolerate it without feeling anxious.

I knew big changes needed to happen for James to achieve this goal and I was up for the challenge!

I set out writing some bullet points of what James found difficult about story time.

• Sharing his space
• Choosing different a space on the carpet each week
• Remaining engaged in the story
• Sitting still

Then I brainstormed ideas for each point and wrote down the most practical and efficient strategies.

Here was my list….

• Sharing his space –> Introducing “wave space” to the whole class
• Choosing different a space on the carpet each week –> Having a corner to choose from rather than one spot & make others aware to James’s corner
• Remaining engaged in the story –> Creating flash card questions to hold up to the class after each main event
• Sitting still –> Taking advantage of James’s rubber obsession

I made the necessary resources, packed away and made my way home…

…thinking of James the whole way.

Tuesday came around quickly and I was keen to put my plan for James into action.
Before lunchtime I took James outside the classroom to explain the new rules for story time.
While the class teacher spoke to the rest of the class about “James’s corner” and how only 6/7 can be in the same corner as James at one time.

I told James that we have put together some new rules for story time so that it can be more fun!
James nodded and bit his lip in concentration, listening intently to what I would say next.
I told him he could choose a corner of the carpet and that every single Tuesday we will make sure he gets a space in his same corner.
He smiled and nodded.

One thing I haven’t told you about James is his obsession with rubbers. James had a small pencil case on his desk which he kept them in, big rubbers, small rubbers, animal rubbers, vehicle rubbers, letter rubbers…

….the list goes on, James adored them!

So when I told James he could choose ONE of his favourite rubbers each Tuesday afternoon to hold whilst on the carpet.

James was overjoyed.

Together James and I went back into the classroom and joined the others. The teacher told everyone that each story time everyone needs to have enough space around them to stretch out their arms and wave.

The whole class then practised.

She went on to say that she would be holding up “Quiz Questions” to the class during parts of the story and whoever gets the question correct, gets a “star point.”

The classroom filled with “ohhhhhhhh’s” and “aahhhhhhh’s”

James joined in.

The class were then dismissed for their lunch.

After I ate my cous cous salad I went down to the playground to collect the class.

James was standing at the front of the line, as he always did.
“It’s story time now, register first, then story.” He informed me.
I was happy with his enthusiasm as he had never mentioned story time to me before.

I walked with the class to our classroom and as quick as a flash James was at his desk searching his “rubber pencil case” for the perfect one!

Then James heard a familiar sound….

“Now quietly tuck in your chairs and find a space on the carpet for story time.” The teacher announced.

And, instead of the usual ‘gluing himself to his chair and anxiously squeezing his fingers and thumbs together, looking in my direction.’

James smiled at his sheep rubber…

….walked slowly towards me

and without a prompt James the pointed to the carpet and said
“That corner.”

I nodded in acceptance and James sat down in his desired spot.

And the rest is history!

By the third story time, with our new rules, James was sitting happily for the duration of story time AND even answering the odd “quiz question” here and there!

Proof that sometimes a few new strategies, an open mind and a whole lot of patience consistency can have amazing results!

Speak with you soon until then,

Live every moment, Love beyond words and make a difference today!

Emma Ottaway
The Autism Support Specialist