Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Keeping Safe at School

Have you worked with a student and started to realize that, maybe, you might not be safe?

Maybe it's a student with autism who unexpectedly comes up behind you and puts her chin on your shoulder, then starts rubbing her face across your sleeve.  She hasn't tried to bite you before and she seems calm and self regulated, but you just get this weird vibe.  You don't want to startle her by standing up too quickly, but you have this feeling in your gut that you better change your position fast.

Perhaps it's a high school student who uses everything as a drumstick or a drum--the table, his fidget tool, the therapy ball, sometimes your hand.  You're working side-by-side and he suddenly takes  your forearm and starts using it as a drumstick against the table edge.  He's "drumming" faster and with more force.  Do you pull away and risk upsetting him or do you wait a few seconds longer while you attempt to redirect him?

It might be a student who won't stop touching you while you sit at a little elementary table and work on fine motor skills or self feeding.  She's touching your arm, your leg and sitting closer and closer to you throughout the session.  You keep nudging her chair back to its original spot and clarifying her need to ask "permission to touch other people" but now you find that she's putting her hand in your pocket--to look for those gummy bears???  Maybe not.

Many readers will be surprised at what predicaments we hyper-friendly, gushingly-compassionate OTs get ourselves into.  Go ahead, sink your teeth into us, smack us, pull our clothes--we bear it all for the sake of helping a student improve their skills.  No kidding.  Teachers are as tolerant of this as we are.

Teachers get injured by students and we do, too.  Listen to your instincts and follow them.  Work with students in places where you can get help quickly.  Make sure other adults have a clear line of sight to you and your student during sessions, in case any questions arise concerning an "event."

But, don't put yourself in a bubble.


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