Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Love's Labored Speech

Jeffrey watches the former girl of his dreams.

She pushes her boyfriend on one of those giant plastic swings made for babies and handicapped children.

"She's so stwong" he says, wistfully.
"Stwonger dan me."

The girl in question has never shown any interest in Jeffrey, but apparently, back in high school, her mom asked that her child "not be seated next to Jeffrey anymore".  

Whatever illicit passions flared in the distant past have left their mark on Jeffrey.

He often begins to tell me some intricate plan of his involving someone whose name he should not say, but I always drag the name out of him, and it is always hers.

Usually the plan is : "She was my girlfriend, she will be. She doesn't know about that yet. She'll like my sweatshirt." (this new sweatshirt of his is a frequent obsession; he constantly puts the hood up and says, "Wook, I'm a ninja spy. A bwack one."... the sweatshirt is green)

The girl's boyfriend is one of the students I have the most difficulty being patient with; he has a tremendous stutter and the need to put in his two cents on everything, which is a terrible combination.

Though I must admit, I take pleasure in watching strangers engage this student. 

Their eyes are lit with self-satisfaction; they feel so comfortable relating to "special" people, they have reached out to this pleasant seeming man, they are dialoguing with him.

But how quickly it breaks apart. 

As he begins to violently stutter an inch from their faces, they always freeze and glance desperately around for an escape route.

By the time he is ready for some hugs, the now vibratingly awkward stranger has all but shrunken into the soles of their well-meaning Birkenstocks.

One time, this student stood in front of an assembly of his classmates and several staff members, including a visiting speech pathologist, and held court.

After ten long minutes, he got around to what he was supposed to share: how he had spent his previous evening. (We call it "giving news").

As he agonized over each syllable, the pathologist turned on the therapy.

"We're all here for you, " she stage whispered, "You can do this. Take your time. Just breathe. Close your eyes if you have to".

He breathes in, than out. He finds the words: "I l-l-l-l-o-o-o-o-kdid at n-n-n-n-aked ladies on the compu-pu-pu-pu-puter l-last night."

I jumped up and ushered him off stage.

Jeffrey continues to watch the young couple. They laugh loudly at some private joke, and even though he and I are at least thirty feet away, Jeffrey erupts into spastic fits of laughter himself.

"She's so funny," he says.

I have been with Jeffrey all day, and I have been beaten down by the sheer weight of his repetitive chatter.

It completely deprives you of any chance for introspection; you have no corner of your conscious mind not penetrated by:

"What time is it? Because my body is out of control."

"Are you tired? I'm tired because the Sandman threw sand in my face."

"Whats that smell? It's probably me."

"Why did the chicken cross the road? To have an egg with a chick inside!" (followed by unhinged laughter)

"Is my watch fast? Because its a minute behind."

"Have you ever heard Gaga la la gaga gaga la by lady gaga?" (This one I had trouble discerning where the name of the song ended and the artist began)

Towards the end of the day, Jeffrey has hiccups.

"You can scare me if you want to, " he says.

Before I can respond, he loudly growls:


  1. For 5 years, I taught children with autism ranging the spectrum. I've been headbutted, concussed, spat at and scratched till I bled. (I still have the scars) Once home I felt drained, as though my the last of my very essence had been sucked out and would cry pitifully...best job I ever had.

    the line of work you do is really tough, usually underpaid and most of the time, goes unappreciated. I can only recommend you for what you do and for finding the humor in it, because let's face it, it's the only way to stay sane.

    I always look forward to reading your posts. You never EVER fail to make me laugh!

  2. Thanks for the kind encouragement Lily!
    I am glad you get a kick out of my blog and I look forward to reading more of yours as well.

  3. Same as...you crack me up everytime.

    I worked in children's homes for 8yrs, not learning disabilities in the same way as yours but some severe behaviour problems.
    As Lily also said it's a tough job but I loved it, I've never laughed so much in a job either.

    There a two posts on my blog about it, both called "little devils and angels without halos" if you want to have a nosy :)

  4. Thanks, dirtycowgirl-
    I will check out your blog!

  5. I seriously just lost it on this one...those naked ladies in the news just killed me. And obviously I'm still obsessed with Jeffrey.

  6. clarellen22-glad you liked it-aren't you doing similar work? You probably have a few Jeffreys of your own

  7. Um, yes. Yes I do. But it's so much easier when it's not your own Jeffrey.