Chris August is a special needs educator, poet, and screenwriter from Baltimore, Maryland. He has toured the country as a nationally-ranked performance poet and is currently working on a pilot for a television show set in a special needs high school.
Every day there is a schedule,
every single day a schedule,
every item must be done just so,
every chore, game, assignment, just so
everything is peaceful, he won’t get stuck.
Every bit of order preventing him from being stuck.
Before they understood him, Matthew’s family stuck
him in a public school; no schedule
on the front boards, no pictures stuck
to the top and sides of his schedule
to make sense of the classes and teachers, so
he repeated words to drown out the uncertainty that terrorized him so,
tormented him so, made him panic and pace, so
he was homeschooled, spent his days stuck
inside bedroom, kitchen, dining room, so
much life passing by, so hard to schedule
learning and desperate routines around the schedule
in which the lives of his parents, sisters and brother were all stuck.
So when he came to us, Matthew was stuck,
stuck in the patterns of movement, stuck in repeated words, stuck in just so.
So the job of every teacher was love him with equal parts heart and schedule,
schedule every movement, class and interaction ‘til it stuck.
Stuck gentle bits of unpredictability into the cracks of his schedule,
scheduled repetition and recklessness into the school day he learned to love so.
But new routines come slowly, so
autism took no time to squirm from the parentheses it had been stuck
inside, unleashed the panic that only an unfollowed schedule
can bring to a student so
stuck, so unwaveringly stuck, so deeply stuck,
but miraculously flexible when loved with heart and schedule
in equal parts. Matthew, now four years, sixteen schedules,
seven hundred twenty days (at least as many laughs and smiles also)
into living how new patterns can stick,
make small changes in even the most rigid of schedules
or formulas, even more so
in the company of those in the business of keeping him unstuck,
understands that life has its own schedule,
more insistent than any arbitrary impulse or rule, and a so
much more comfortable place to be stuck.