Many of you have asked how I am doing after my wreck last week. Thank you for your concern. I am fine, but it looks like my car is going to be “totaled” by the insurance company. As much as I enjoy my car, it isn’t the worst thing that could have happened.
Last week in my “Broken Pipes” post, we left off with Otis telling me how he had gone without water in his bathroom since Halloween. This was now February. After I found my voice, I told him I would call his father and see what I could do to help. He smiled and told me how much he loved coming to school once he got here each morning. I called and talked to Otis’ father and let him know I would contact their social worker to see what she could do to help them. The social worker followed up with several visits and eventually, they got their pipes fixed.
In the meantime, I arranged for Otis to shower at school. I knew it would not work for him to go to the boys PE locker room, so I arranged for him to go to the nurse’s office where there was a shower in the boy’s bathroom. I purchased all the “shower essentials,” along with scrubbing gloves and bath towel. The next day, Otis’s father brought him to school 45 minutes early and I walked him to the nurse’s office. I showed him where the shower was and told him to go ahead and take his shower and I would see him back in the room when he was finished. Twenty minutes later, Otis walked back into my classroom just as dirty as he was when I left him. Confused, I asked him why he hadn’t showered. He simply said, “I’ve never taken a shower. I don’t know how.” I was both dumbfounded and speechless. It was hard to wrap my head around the idea that a 17-year old boy didn’t know how to shower. After I mentally picked up jaw up off the floor, I asked him how he usually bathed. He said once in a while he just sat in the bathtub until the water got cold and then he got out. This explained why he was always dirty.
It took me a few days to figure out what to do, but I finally came up with a plan. I got all the signatures and approvals that I needed. Everyone kept saying to me, “You are really committed to helping this kid. I could never do it.” Finally, with everything in place, his father, again, brought him to school 45 minutes early and the three of us headed down to the nurse’s office with Otis’s shower essentials. But, this time I had also brought him a swimsuit and had a male special education teacher meet us (I’m so grateful this teacher was willing to help out). I told Otis to go into the bathroom and change into the swimsuit. When he was finished, all of us went into the bathroom with him and I, dressed in a jogging suit, water shoes, and shower cap, turned on the water, stepped into the shower with him and taught him how to take a shower, literally. “First, raise your right arm, take the soap and move it up and down like this…” until we had cleaned everything except his private area. At that point, we left him with the instructions to clean that area just like he had cleaned the other areas of his body. When he was finished, he was to dry off, get dressed and call us back in. Then, I showed him how to brush his teeth and hair, and use deodorant. This took months of daily trips to the nurse’s office to get him used to this. He hated it and voiced his opinion daily. Having autism he didn’t like the stimulus of the water hitting his face. I bought him swimming goggles and that helped quite a bit.
Those last few months of the school year, he would often give me a .25 “tip” from his left over lunch money, stating, “Ms. Brown, you know how waiters get tipped when they do a really good job? Well, I’m tipping you because you are a really good teacher.” If I declined the money he would get upset, so I politely accepted the money and placed it in a jar I used for class parties.
Throughout this process many people couldn’t believe I would take the time to teach this young man how to take a shower. But, learning hygiene is a skill we all need to know how to do. Otis wasn’t going to learn it at home, so someone else had to step in and teach him. We all have a responsibility to help those who are in need.
Remember to practice acts of kindness and peace,
P.S. I have opened the “dialogue” portion of the blog, so now you can leave your comments and thoughts about each post. If you have signed up for the email notifications, you will need to sign up again through “register” to participate in the blogging dialogue. I apologize for this inconvenience, but I look forward to hearing from you.