The coins spill out over the table, they clink loudly, glinting under the fluorescent lights in the classroom. The boy knows the drill. Separate the quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies into groups. Start with the largest, working down to the pennies. This time it's different though. I walk away. No help will be given today. He has been working practically all school year to be able to do this.
The boy is 18, and has been with us for 3 school years. I have come to be so fond of him. I want the best for him. Last year it seemed as if he was never going to have the money-counting skill. It was very frustrating for most of the people who worked with him. They just didn't have the patience or time to go over and over and over a skill or format, so that he would finally understand something.
This year has been different. Maybe it's because he is maturing and has more patience at working on things. Maybe it's because I was determined that yes, we could work with money all year. We were given this time, and it would be used well.
So the coins cascade out again and I walk away. When I come back, he has written an amount on some paper. I count the coins, wondering if it will be right this time. My eyes widen with delight. It's correct! Is this a fluke? Let's do it again. I put more coins on the table. This time the amount will be bigger. I leave again. 10 minutes later, he has written another total on the paper. Again, I am pleased to see the total is correct! "Good job! Let's do this again." So more coins are put on the table, and I mix up the coins that have already been organized. He willingly starts his task. Once again he is right! I am so ecstatic!
If the boy learns how to count money, without help from anyone, he will have a skill set that he can use throughout his life. It will give him the self-confidence to help him know that he's not the idiot that he thought he was.
The 4th try didn't go so well. He was off by a dollar and some cents. But by that time the piles of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies had grown significantly. Today was a major milestone for money. We will have several more weeks before school is done to work on his skill. Then he will move on to another placement. Maybe a job training site, or a group work experience. But whatever he does, he will always be able to count money!