Saturday, May 16, 2015

Turning Tough into an Opportunity

This morning I got an email from one of TJ's para-educators.

For those of you who don't know, a para-educator, or one-on-one, is someone who sits with TJ in class and makes sure he stays on track.  They help him so much and we would be nowhere without them.  

Anyway, the email said that TJ had borrowed a book from a teacher that he promised to return before the last period of the day.  Since TJ would forget his head if it weren't attached, lo and behold, he forgot.  And the teacher really needed that book for another class.  She asked if he had it in his backpack and could he please remember to return it on Monday?

TJ found the book in his back pack and felt terrible.  He immediately started yelling about how stupid he was.  

I calmed him down and told him he is not stupid, he simply made a mistake.  Together we talked about how everyone makes mistakes, and how he needs to apologize to his teacher for forgetting, and for the impact that had on her other class.

This teacher lives in our neighborhood, so TJ wanted to walk the book down to her house.  All the way there he talked about how worried he was.  So we did some deep breathing, until we got to the door.  She wasn't home, so we dropped off the book with an apology letter, and a promise that he would apologize in person on Monday.

Walking home, we talked about mistakes, and forgetting things.  Everyone forgets things, he just forgets things more frequently. 

His teacher later texted me, saying how impressed she was that TJ was so responsible to walk the book back so quickly, and write an apology letter.  He felt better.

I always say that whenever TJ has a tough time with something, it is his way of showing us what he needs to work on.  So instead of focusing on the fact that he forgot, I started thinking of what I can do to teach him to remember.

Then I had an idea.

"TJ, we are going to do an experiment."

"OK, mom.  What is it?"

"I am going to give you a marble.  You have to give it back to me by the end of the day.  Do you think you can remember to do that?"

"I don't think I can."

"Well how about if I write a little 'm' on your hand, so when you see it you can remember that you have my marble?"

"Write on my hand?!  It will never come off!!!"

"No, TJ, you can wash it off at the end of the day." (while thinking, note to self, this is a good opportunity to challenge TJ's sensory issues as well.  If I can write a reminder on his hand, and if he gets used to it, he won't be too distracted by it in the future!  Two birds, one marble!)

"Hmmm.  I think that sounds good."

So I handed him the marble, and wrote a little 'm' on his hand.  

He looked at it, then looked up at me with a smile.

"I got this, mom!"

As I walked away I thought to myself how far we have come.  Both of us.  If something like this had happened years ago, not only would TJ really beat himself up for it, but I would be upset for a while about his having trouble before I was able to come up with a plan of attack.  Now, he beats himself up a teeny bit, and I immediately turn trouble into opportunity. 

Hours later he and I were taking a walk together.  During our walk he said to me, "I still have your marble, mom, and I'll give it back to you by the end of the day."

We may be on to something here, me and him.


  1. What a great teaching tool - genius idea!

    1. Thanks! We tried it again today - it worked!!! WAHOO!!!! Thank you for the comment!

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