Alfie takes a leap of faith with his teacher
Alfie is up on the desk again.
I sense it before I see it. The shadow looming over my head. Then the ‘thud, thud’ as he bounds from desk to desk. I know it before Sandra, one of the classroom helpers, lets out a cry of surprise.
He leaps barefooted on to the desk I’m working on with Ciara. The table clatters loudly as the 5 foot, 10 stone, 9 year old makes the jump. Alfie, unfortunately, due to his autism, has a very limited diet. Every day he opens his packed-lunch-box to an entire packet of Oreos, beef flavoured crisps and dry bread. To his parents' credit they also send in a daily ‘variety’ item. A packet of carrot sticks, some sliced ham, maybe a pineapple lollypop. But always, his first port of call at lunch is to remove the vile item and deposit it in the bin. He does it with such a face of disgust that it reminds me of someone disposing a dead mouse from a mousetrap. This diet, unfortunately, has done nothing for his waistline and he seems much older than his actual age.
He is much bigger than me.
The unattached pieces of Ciara's jigsaw judder off the table on to the floor. Ciara, who dislikes disorder in any form, isn’t at all pleased with this and begins biting her finger in rage, grabbing my shoulder to emphasise that it’s me she blames for the incident. But I’ll help Ciara in a minute. I note, in a moment of fear, that Alfie is heading towards the front of the room. Towards the teachers' chair! The comfy, twisting, height-adjustable teachers chair that is in no way capable of sustaining the impact of a large boy, expressing his feelings of pleasure through classroom aerial acrobatics. Worse. The chair is on wheels! Behind it, the ‘fall zone’ is the teachers' desk, the classroom computer, the interactive whiteboard, a large plaster-of-paris model of teeth, and a cold cup of coffee in my prized 'Worlds Best Teacher' unicorn mug.
I jump from my seat in an instant and bridge the gap between Alfie’s current table and the chair.
I fill the space with my arms out in the universal ‘stop right there’ stance. “Alfie!” I warn in the universal, ‘I’m not happy’ tone of voice. My face shows the universal ‘I’m very concerned’ expression.
But autism doesn’t really hold tight with the ‘universal norms’.
Alfie can see my outstretched arms. I’m looking right at him. He hears his name.
He smiles, accepts the invitation.