So I have to work with this kid, one on one, who’s got some sort of … problem. He might be mildly autistic, it’s not really clear. (It’s not Down’s, he doesn’t have any of the physical characteristics, and really I don’t even know if it’s prevalent in Asians – the only kids I’ve seen with Down’s ever have been white.) He’s a little slow, and he’s got basically no English, and he apparently is difficult to work with for the Japanese teachers because a) he just checks out if he’s not interested, b) he tends to explode when he gets frustrated and c) he hears the syllables of words in such a way that he makes words that aren’t there, and which make him unhappy. He’ll take a syllable from the beginning of the sentence and then one from the middle – clearly unconnected syllables – and he’ll put them together and hear, say “death” and sort of freak out.

Fortunately, that won’t happen for me, or at least I hope not, because I’m speaking a broken mishmash of English and Japanese to him that is all disconnected anyway.

But the point is, I’m trying to find things to talk about that’ll keep him interested, unfortunately, I’m not really “in the know” about current tween boy pop culture. My anime interests leaned more towards Evangelion – kids today probably know as much about Eva as I know about, say, Dragnet, or maybe Dallas. (Which is to say, nothing at all.)

I printed off some pictures from shows like Conan, and Hitman Reborn, and Bleach, and One Piece, all of which I have seen featured on the pencil boards of kids here and which are presumably popular. Some of them he actively disliked, others he just didn’t care about, so that fell through. Apparently, his tastes are Old Skool – he’s into Dragon Ball. Also video games, of which sadly my knowledge is extremely lacking -and I’m afraid he has a poor opinion of you now, mom, because you refused to buy me a game system or reward me for perfect test scores with new games.

At least I knew who Sonic the Hedgehog was, and to be fair, I did watch the cartoon for a while. Also, I played some Zelda: Link’s Awakening back when Doug got his Gameboy, so I knew who Link was. (I didn’t say that I never got past the Singing Fish thing. I didn’t want him to think I was completely incompetent, though of course at video games I am.)

He’s also into bugs – beetles and butterflies, as far as I know, so I think I’ll try to talk about insects next class. Lubber Grasshoppers! Thanks dad, for introducing me to giant freakish bugs. (And your colleague back in BN, of course, for the giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches. I’m not entirely sure how to adequately express their vile nature to this boy, but I will give it my best shot.)

So it’s sort of a weird class – they don’t seem to care at all whether he learns English, he doesn’t even have a real teacher, just the PE coach. I seem to be there mostly to listen to him like he’s a Real Boy, because otherwise I’m free that period and all the other teachers have more important stuff to do. If I shove any English into his head on top of that, it’s basically pure bonus.

I do my best not to let it be awkward or anything, but honestly it can be a little, because he doesn’t even try to use English or anything, and there’s nothing resembling a lesson at all. At least at the other school, my special class is actually a class. (They’re never good at telling me exactly what’s different about these kids, or maybe they just don’t have the words to express it properly. But the girl seems to be partially deaf, as she’s got hearing aids and she doesn’t speak Japanese properly either. The boy was apparently sick or something for a long time and missed a bunch of school, so there might not be anything actually different about him except that he’s hugely behind – and yet, if that’s true, I don’t know why he isn’t in with the first years because that’s about what his level is.) We study vocab, and I drill spelling, and they have an actual English teacher. It goes a little slowly, and it’s hard because the girl and boy are at different levels and we also can’t really do games or anything because, well, there’s only two of them which makes for a hugely boring game. Still, I at least know how to approach it, which is more than I really know for this new kid.