Today, I substituted for a class of eight severely, mentally handicapped men who just graduated from either Provo High School or Timpview High School. These guys will go to this school until they are 23. The school works to try and help these guys build the skills to have jobs.
The school has three tiers of classes based on cognition. The class I subbed in is considered the lowest level group. None of these men could speak, but I was surprised to find how fast it took me to decipher their clues for bathroom, annoyance, boredom and interest. I was subbing for a para. The teacher would have been in the class with us, but had to leave to deal with one of the men all day. He was annoyed with my presence, but reacted by poking the other students in the face. The teacher and other para had planned on this, so the day was very easy.
We chilled out for the first 45mins and then watched the news for a while. We then did free exercise by using exercise machines and a Wii. Some of those guys are amazing Wii golfers. We then worked on the computer and they did their own attendance using the promethian machine. Lunch was mac and cheese and loads of ranch. After lunch, we watched The Bee Movie. And that was it. My job was to corral escapees and escort people to the bathroom.
This is the kind of set-up Dixon should have had on Thursday. Even though these guys have severe handicaps, in a way they are better equipped to deal with society than the kids in that resource class.
One of the interesting things about this school is that it is part of Provo School District’s facilities complex. The district’s laundry is done there and it looked like a bunch of stuff from UVU is being done there as well. The bathroom the students had to go to was through the production floor. While I was taking the guys to a collective restroom break, I ran into a guy I had not seen in ten years: Richard Gauss.
Richard is a high-functioning autistic man that I went to church with as a kid. He was our shooting guard on the youth basketball team even though he was at least twenty years older than the rest of us. He had a great shot too.
Anyway, as I was walking through with my class, Richard runs up and we end up talking for a while. It was nice to see him. I found out that he is no longer living with his father, but in a half-way home. His dad is at an old-folks home in Lehi. Richard’s father, Jesse, is one of those men every man should want to be like. Rock-hard, strong, determined, opinionated, generous, hard-working, courageous and filled with integrity. I have missed Jesse for years. He was one of the men I looked up to as a kid and young single-father. I also used him as an example for my boys. Jesse cared for Richard by himself as his wife just could not deal with the difficulty special-needs kids have. I had a similar experience in how I had to raise kids after my wife left not being able to deal with how hard kids can be.