"Nathan" was one of the most challenging and favorite students I had the privilege of working with. Although it was many years ago when I first met Nathan, I remember it like it was yesterday.
Nathan's 4th grade teacher was the one who contacted me to come do a classroom observation all those years ago... She had reported a smorgasbord of "strange" behaviors: Nathan was late to school every day, had severe handwriting difficulties, liked slamming his fingers with his lift-top desk, often punched out kids in the hall, and other students reported he often banged his head on the cement wall in the school bathroom. She further stated Nathan made a lot of distracting noises in the classroom and was a loner who was pretty much always by himself; he seemingly had no friends. His school file revealed he had been held back in second grade and was on medication for some serious psychological diagnoses.
On the day of the observation I noted that Nathan had huge holes in his writing papers that appeared to be due to his using really heavy writing pressure and tracing over and over letters and words; to the point of ripping the paper. I observed him quietly slamming his fingers with the top of his lift-top desk. A conversation with him suggested he was extremely tactilely defensive. He explained that he stood across the street from school each morning until all the other students were inside the building and their classrooms before he'd enter the hallway and ultimately enter the classroom. Nathan revealed how painful it was when others touched or bumped into him in the hallway, and that he did indeed bang his head on the wall in the bathroom – because it felt good to him. A recess observation revealed Nathan typically stood alone at one end of the playground and didn't interact with others. A lunchroom observation showed he sat by himself and didn't eat any of his brown bag lunch. Lunch aides reported this was the case pretty much every day.
To be continued....
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