Posted by: heartfull | October 12, 2007

Teaching Empathy

Just because I posted yesterday that B loves ballet, she refused to go last night. I guess I should say she tried to refuse to go, because I was having nothing to do with that. I told her that if she didn’t want to do ballet, that was fine, but she was not going to skip classes at will. If she didn’t go, I would cancel her classes and apply the last few lessons of October to MG’s account (perhaps this was a little underhanded…) With much protestation, she went.

At bedtime, B said she needed to talk to me about something – in private. I got the other two settled down, and brought B into my room. She said that the reason she didn’t want to go to ballet was because of Abbey. Abbey, I believe, is autistic, though not being educated in this field, that is only a guess on my part. She tries very hard and I have to say I was impressed at October’s observation day at her participation given her very obvious limitations. She is disruptive, though. She yells out that she has to use the bathroom two to three times during class. She yells out that she can’t hear the instructor. She has to move to the front of the group each time they move around so she is standing right in front of the instructor. She is loud about all of this.

Even knowing that Abbey is disruptive, I was still stunned that B would have a problem with Abbey’s participation in the class considering the amount of emphasis the grade school puts on accepting differences. Then again, she is only eight.

I used it as an opportunity to explain to B that we need to accept differences and be understanding of other people.  While I don’t expect her to make friends with Abbey, I did emphasize how kind she could be and what it might mean to Abbey to hear a “hello” and “see ya next week”.  I don’t know if I convinced her.

Last week, another mom approached me at soccer.  One of her daughters is in ballet with B and Abbey and she was concerned about how disruptive Abbey was.  As she stated, she felt guilty having a problem with it as one of her seven children is autistic. She felt they needed a student helper in the ballet class. I didn’t agree at the time, because I thought the instructor handled Abbey quite well. Maybe I was wrong – maybe the disruption is too upsetting for the other girls.  Maybe because she does have an autistic child she better understood the need.

B has always had kids with varying levels of disabilities in her school classes. Granted, they have aids assigned to them and spend a lot of time out of class with specialists, but they are there and that, I feel, is important. But the assigned aid might make all the difference. Perhaps a student helper in ballet is needed.

Now I wonder if it is my place to suggest that at ballet. Hmmm.

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