School is always good for a laugh when you work with Special Needs kids. We have a Downs' Syndrome girl at school, in year 8, who is at that difficult stage where she has discovered BOYS but, thankfully, doesn't quite know what to do with them. Naturally, she fixates on one and follows him around at lunchtime. It does not take very long for this to deteriorate into 'kiss chasey', with said boy and his mates hiding in the toilets and Emma (not her real name) lying in wait for them as they emerge. It's a bit like what we all did when we were 9 or 10 except they are 13 and 14.
You mean you didn't do that? It was just me?
Anyway, there she is lurking outside the toilets and there's much hilarity from the boys inside, until one of them decides to hold his friend so that Emma can get to him. Now I don't know if you're aware, but Downs' Syndrome kids can be really strong and when Emma gets hold of you it is quite an effort to disengage. In all the wrestling and so forth that ensued, Boy 1's jumper was ripped, Boy 2 (the holder) got roughly jostled into a wall and Boy 3 hurt Emma's hand when he tried to pull her off Boy 1.
The whole lot of them ended up in the Office of the Head of Student Welfare having to explain themselves.
Part of my role is to debrief Emma after these situations and make sure she understands what is appropriate and acceptable behaviour so that she will be able to operate successfully in society. When she came cheerfully up to my office the next morning I had to sit her down for a chat.
"So Emma, can you tell me about what happened yesterday?"
(thinks hard)"Ummmm, yes, I got a lot of 'good's in my diary"
"Yes, that's wonderful that you were good in class Em but what about lunchtime? Did anything happen at lunchtime yesterday?"
(I am now about to get a lesson in asking euphemistic questions of people with intellectual disabilities.)
"Nothing happened yesterday."
"OK Em, when I ask you if anything happened yesterday, I actually know what happened but I just want you to tell me about it. Tell me about what went wrong at lunchtime yesterday. Why did you get into trouble?"
Emma's face fell, not into a canvas of remorse but rather into a Hieronymus Bosch-like darkened oil painting of deviation. I could almost see the cogs turning. 'How do I get out of this?'
"Well.." she started," John Smith was hurting my hand."
"Yes, Emma, but he was pulling your hand off Tom wasn't he?"
"Yes. But I never touched Tom's jumper. He was being nasty to me."
"I see. But you did touch Tom's jumper didn't you Em because that's how it got ripped."
(Eyes dart sideways, cogs turn.)
"Yes. But Tom was hurting my feelings. He mumblemumblemumble..."
Like many people with Downs', Emma's speech is sometimes hard to understand, but I thought I had heard her correctly.
"What did Tom do Emma?" I asked with some incredulity.
"Tom Brown killed my grandfather." she announced. And then for good measure:
"With a GUN."
Sometimes it's very hard to keep a straight face in this job.