Special needs

I forgot how much I dislike studying for standardized tests. The math isn’t a big deal–it’s like a fun brain teaser. But crunching all this vocabulary…at least the root word/etymological aspect is interesting, but it’s still painful and fairly dry. Oh, well–I just have to pull off a good performance in a couple of weeks and I should be set.

I’m buzzing with Travel Fever again–I have my hotel booked, and bus tickets to Osaka and from Kobe for next weekend. (I’m staying in Kobe for the jazz clubs.) I also have my hotel for Hiroshima, though I have to decide how to get there (find a way to Matsuyama and catch a ferry for novelty’s sake, or catch a Shinkansen and be there in far less time?) and start setting up an itinerary. I’ll worry more about that after the GRE’s done with, though.

The Hindi lessons have been going really well so far, but I’ll honestly be a little relieved when they’re done with–while I’ve enjoyed how much the kids have enjoyed it, it’s almost easier to repeat normal material 6 times in a week than it is to repeat something meant to be new and fun and have it still be equally new and fun with every additional repetition. It’s time to start planning the Halloween activities.

The only real “snag” I’ve had with these lessons is one thing that has kept slipping my mind every single week for the past 14 months that I’ve been here, though it’s pretty much out of my control. In the second of my two Thursday elementary schools, I have a special-needs child with mental disabilities. I don’t exactly know what her condition is–she isn’t autistic, but she can’t really do anything unless someone tells her to do something, at which point she’ll do it, slowly and haltingly, even with games I know she’s really familiar with, like Fruits Basket and the like. The supervising teacher and other students take care of her and walk her through everything, but it’s always completely over her head, and this week was no exception. I did try to sit with her and walk her through how to write a Hindi “a,” and wanted to come back, but time ran out far more quickly than I anticipated. I just really have no idea how I can include her while keeping the rest of the class going.

I may have mentioned this a long time ago, but the way the system works here is that until junior high, special-needs kids aren’t put into a separate class. From junior high onwards, there’s a special-needs class for students with minor issues (we have two boys at my junior high in that special Homeroom C–I think they probably just have social anxiety issues of some kind where they can’t handle being in a typical 25-student classroom situation, because they’re just fine otherwise), and in Ikeda there’s also a special-needs school, for students with mental and/or physical disabilities. We visited it on our Christmas caroling rounds last year and are really eager to go back this year–the kids are really sweet and were so thrilled to see us, and I think the teachers and staff were really happy as well, because the ALTs hadn’t included that school in their caroling rounds for years.

Anyway, yeah–it was really surprising for me to see that young children with special needs don’t have special classes that tend to them, and they only receive that attention starting in junior high. I can only wonder what happens in situations where the kids aren’t as well taken care of by their classmates and teachers. The little girl in my situation is fortunate, but I still feel really horrible that English always ends up being such a discouraging experience for her because I don’t have the qualification or experience to know how to make it better for her.

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