I currently volunteer for a charity that provides respite care for children who have special needs or learning difficulties. Now, I have never worked with children before, hardly been around a child for more than an hour and even then they are related to me and their parent is in the room supervising. I mean I have no idea how to talk to children, I speak to them as if they are a puppy or a tiny baby… ‘what a cute chubby wubby’.

Obviously I know this is not correct I learnt this quickly by observing how others interacted with the children. So, slowly I began to gain my confidence when playing with the children and was able to handle the quieter children. But as soon as a more challenging child approached I would panic as they tried to strike me in the face with their sticky fist. My face, now bright red, I am stuck on how to discipline this child. I panicked. Luckily, a more experienced staff member saved me and took the child to a time out. Thank God.

My next shift, I observed most staff looking at how they handled difficult behaviour and how they dealt with the challenging behaviour. I felt confident to deal out the discipline and I felt that it was successful! For example today I had a child tell me to F*** OFF. I responded appropriately and told her we only use nice words here. The response I got was ‘calm dow porkchops’. It took every part of me not to burst out laughing. It was pretty comical. I held my composure and told her that she had made me sad which finally I had achieved an apology.

After playing on the zip wire with her I managed to acquire a rope burn, I held my hand out and told her I had hurt myself. In return she grabbed my hand and pushed as hard as she could on my burn mark whilst holding eye contact with me a vicious stare and an expressionless face. This look she had in her eyes honestly said to me ‘I’m guna end you’. I was kinda terrified. But she apologised and it was all good, yet she continued to be rude towards others. This one boy was watching her on the zip wire and said ‘i’m too big for that’, all the staff around reassured him and told him he wasn’t. But this little girl wanted to wreck his life and shouted ‘yeah you are you fat f***’. My god, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time, but like a true professional I hid my astonishment at how much sass a little girl can have and made her apologise.

I know some of the children I work with do not know the difference between right and wrong and I know not to take anything personally and to have a poker face when the misbehave. Today, one child decided to whack a plate full of  chocolate covered cornflake cakes right out of this other child’s hand. I mean if that was in a tv show, or you had seen it yourself it was unbelievably comical. Fair play to the victim child, he stayed calm and didn’t not retaliate. Instead he picked up all the pieces and still handed them out to the staff.

I love working with these children. After every shift, no matter how draining or crazy the time is I love every second of it and I come away feeling truly happy and that those kids are happy playing in a safe environment where there’s no bullying and they can be themselves. I hope that I am making a difference to their lives and aiding them in understanding social interactions and having fun at the same time. 

Published by Katy-Jane Pitt