As we were exiting a mall, a friend and I heard a voice calling, “Cupcake! Cupcake!” For a moment I thought someone was selling cupcakes. We looked in the direction of the voice. There was a young man with his parents. Suddenly I was jolted back in time. I had been a special education teacher at a school for developmentally challenged teens. One of my students always called me Cupcake. There at the mall nearly 20 years later was Joe. He recognized me as soon as he saw me. This heart-warming reunion brought back memories from my teaching days.
Part of our curriculum was going out into the community to work on life and social skills.
These outings were the catalyst for sometimes hair-raising, often hilarious, always unpredictable adventures. This was due to the range of behaviours the students might exhibit at any given moment. They could turn on a dime from sweet and socially appropriate to aggressive and needing some form of intervention. My educational assistant, B, and I knew to expect the unexpected. Thus, we were able to deal with any situation in a composed, calm manner. These outings were generally uneventful. Following is one of our more event filled escapades.
Before I get to the actual incident, you need to know about two of the students, in particular. There was L, 18 years old, attractive and pleasant. She frequently seizured both real and feigned. She was so good at faking seizures that it was sometimes difficult to discern which was which. We always treated the questionable times as real. We never took a chance on a student’s safety and well-being.
The other student was J. She, too, was 18 years old. She had Down’s syndrome, was high functioning and lived on the edge. Occasionally she slipped over that edge into the seamy side of life. J was light-fingered. Anything that wasn’t nailed down would end up in her purse or locker. Despite her feisty nature, J had a kind, caring heart.
The four other students were just as endearing as the aforementioned ladies. B and I were very grateful for their placid, compliant natures.
One time we were on our way to the Mall for the day. Upon our arrival at the subway station, things began to unravel. While waiting for the train, L slumped to the ground in a seizure. B and I explained the situation to the bystanders, assuring them we had everything under control. One freaked out person did not listen. To our chagrin, she phoned 911. Just then the train pulled into the station. The doors opened. J got on. The doors closed and off she went. The rest of us were still on the platform.
I dashed upstairs to find a TTC agent so J could be found and returned. Swirling around in my mind was that Kingston Trio song about Charlie on the MTA who never returned. Would J ride forever ‘neath the streets of Toronto? I rejoined the class just as the EMT’s arrived. In her ‘seizure state’ L sensed the presence of some handsome men and suddenly revived smiling. I thanked the fabulous firemen, apologizing for the obviously unnecessary call.
What about J? A concerned gentleman in the same subway car as J, who had witnessed her great escape, brought her back to us. With everyone intact, we continued on to the Mall.
The theatrics were not quite over. We were having our lunch in the food court. This well-populated area did not go unnoticed to L. She gave an encore performance by slumping down in her seat, conveniently ending up with her head on the shoulder of the student next to her. I announced that lunch was over. It was time for shopping. L could stay where she was. As we all got up to go, L miraculously recovered. Yup. Just another day at the office.