Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Turnabout is Fair Play

You know that thing people do with their legs when they are anxious? You know...the shaking the foot thing with the knees crossed? Well, I have a student (Corey) who absolutely HATES it when people do that. You can be 20 feet across the room, but if he catches you shaking your foot (just absentmindedly), he will be out of his mind and insist that you stop. In fact, I can't even nod my head (more than once) in agreement with him while he's talking to me without him demanding that I "Stop it!" Repetitive movements push this kid over the edge.

Now the thing is, Corey has some pretty aggravating behaviors himself, such as refusing to pick up a pencil and write or do what a teacher or aide (Carly) politely asks him to do, even though he is perfectly capable. Take notes? Pshaw! Why take notes when he can sit and read the morning paper? (And that's not counting the fact that he swings between being outright obnoxious and charmingly funny from day to day.) Carly struggles often to get him to comply, especially in the general education setting, where she tries to avoid embarrassing him (he hates that.)

When Carly recently told me that she had found a way to get Corey to comply in class, I was all ears. "It's simple," she said. "After the second time I tell him quietly and politely to do something and he ignores me, I start shaking my foot or "tapping" a pencil in the air. No one else knows what I'm doing, but it drives him crazy. He says, "Stop it!" under his breath, and I say (through a gritted teeth smile), "I will stop as soon as you are doing what you're supposed to be doing." He then falls right in line. Problem solved. I love her creativity, don't you?

Now, foot shaking or head nodding do not bother me, but I cannot stand the noise equivalent of either of those (tapping a pencil on a desk, or short, rhythmic noises that are continuous) when someone else is doing them. I also hate the sound of food being smacked in an open mouth. Chalk on a chalkboard bothers a lot of people. My friend's son goes insane from the sound of macaroni and cheese being stirred. A couple of people I heard on the radio this morning would rather put acid under their eyelids than touch a cotton ball. (Isn't that weird?!)

This subject fascinates me; I wonder what causes these idiosyncrasies in individuals. Childhood trauma? Were those women taunted with Q-tips by their mothers when they were babies? I get the noise frequency thing of the chalkboard, but mac-n-cheese? What's he going to do when he grows up, becomes a father and his kids beg for Kraft every day?

And let's hope Corey doesn't end up with Parkinson's...

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