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On Friday, our school had a Talent Show. Since I don’t have a class of my own, I decided to hold the door for students and families as they came into the gym. Just as the show was about to begin, I noticed a student that exited the gym and was hanging out by the doors. Sometimes this student can find it difficult to remain in class, and I didn’t want to have him wandering the school before the Talent Show. I have a good relationship with him, so I decided to go up and talk to him and find out what was going on.

When Noise Is The Problem

He explained to me that it was “too loud” in the gym, and he couldn’t stay in there. I understand. Going along with the Talent Show were a lot of loud songs, musical performances, and flickering lights. This can be hard for some kids. I appreciated that he could articulate his concerns, but I still didn’t want him walking around the school. I wanted to ensure that he was safe, knowing that there were so many other community members in the school as well.

A Solution

Since I could be more flexible during this time, I asked this student if he wanted to watch the Talent Show with me by the windows. With the door closed along with the big concrete walls, the sounds were muted near the windows. He could then see the performances, but with less noise. At this time, our vice principal came along. The classroom teacher told him that this student left the gym, and he wanted to check on him. I explained the problem and our solution. The vice principal also offered him some quieter time in his office if he wanted it, and the student said, “Yes.” I told our VP that I would be near the doors and I was happy to watch the Talent Show with him from the hallway.

Self-Reg In Action

Soon after the student left with the VP, he returned to the gym and said that he wanted to try and watch the Talent Show with me. I said that he could choose if he wanted to watch in the gym or in the hallway. We started with the hallway, as the music was loud at the time. Not long after he said to me, “It sounds quieter. Can we try to watch in the gym?” Absolutely! His class was in the middle of the gym, and I didn’t want to have him sit down and then need to walk through everyone if he had to leave again. I suggested that we sit over by the wall. He liked that as there were less people around and he saw some friends, which also help reduce his stress. We sat in the gym for a while. Then there was a really loud song. The musical accompaniment coupled by louder singing, increased the volume in the gym. The student looked at me and said, “Can we go back outside to the windows again?”

What Happened Next?

This Talent Show was over an hour long, and throughout the show, he moved seamlessly between the hallway and the gym. He looked at ways to get back inside, but also knew, when the noise was too much for him. I asked him, “Have you ever tried those noise cancelling headphones before?” He said that he hasn’t, but he would be willing to try them out. Maybe this is another possible solution for those louder classroom or school events.

Towards the end of the Talent Show, it was my prep, so I whispered to him, “I’m going to the library. If you need me though, come and get me, and I’ll come back.” About five minutes after I left, he appeared and said, “I need you to come back. It’s too loud again. Can you stand in the hallway with me?” For sure.

A Self-Reg Reflection

We are about to begin our final month of school. There can be lots of changes to routines, with special learning and play opportunities that can be dysregulating for some students. It would have been easy to see this student’s behaviour as misbehaviour, especially when he stood up and left the gym that first time. Without talking with him, the assumption could be that he was just doing what he wanted to do and ignoring the school rules. But he wasn’t. In fact, he knew exactly what he needed to be successful, and he could make the choices he needed to meet with this success. How can we provide these same opportunities to other students during classroom and school activities? What have your children tried before, and how did things go? As an individual who also finds loud noises, busy spaces, additional lighting, and changes in routine dysregulating, I could connect with this student and appreciated what he did to make things better for both of us. We didn’t walk away from the Talent Show, but we did make it work for us. This is something that I will always celebrate!