The Veteran’s Day Velociraptor

So the kids here at APA (American Prep Academy) are having a contest for Veteran’s Day; they have to submit an essay, whether they like it or not.

If you’re like me, this is pretty much a Disneyland assignment. But if you’re like my sweet, autistic 6th grade Rexy boy, this is a veritable nightmare.

For some reason Rex has it in his head that I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to school or writing or writing in school. So what if I spend all day teaching secondary Literature and Composition, it apparently doesn’t give me the know-how to help my sixth grader with a five paragraph essay.

BLAHHH!! GAHHH!!! These are the sounds I make after a writing session with Rex.

“Hey,” his teacher said a few days ago, popping by my classroom after school. “I just wanted to remind you that Rex really needs to work on that Veteran’s Day paper, he’s got a graphic organizer and the deadline is coming right up.”

I looked over at Rex who was staring at the tip of his pencil with forced intensity. This was not new news.

“Rex,” I said, “Did you hear that?”

“Oh, uh, I’m just working on something over here right now,” he said.

“You need to listen, Rex, you have to start on that essay…” and then I launched into all the different Veterans in our family he could find out and write about. He might as well have been holding his breath underwater for all the good it did.

After his teacher left I pulled a desk next to my table and forced Rex (who was panicking) to join me for a work session.

“So,” I asked, “What is a Veteran?”

“I don’t know! All I know is the Veteran’s Day Velociraptor!”

Wait, What?


“Yes! I saw it in a magazine, and it’s on Uncle Grandpa…the Veteran’s Day Velociraptor!”

“No,” I said, “This is not a paper about a dinosaur, it’s a paper about a Veteran…”

And then we spent twenty minutes watching short videos for kids on “What is a Veteran?” and “Fun Facts About Veteran’s Day” and “How to Force Your Stubborn Child to Understand Patriotism.” ┬áDid any of it sink in?

“So,” I asked after the fifth time he had watched a ten second clip of the definition of a Veteran. “One more time, what’s a Veteran, Rex?”

“It’s…America! I don’t care about this! It’s not my thing!”

The whole “it’s not my thing” is Rex’s favorite excuse for anything he doesn’t want to do.

“Look Rex–”

“All I know is the Veteran’s Day Velociraptor!”

Great. And we were full circle once again. “Tell you what,” I said, looking at his paper. “You need a good ‘hook,’ something to get the reader’s attention, let’s just go with it. ‘Have you ever heard of the Veteran’s Day Velociraptor?’ That would make a perfect hook.”

And just like that his pencil started to move.

I can’t tell you how delightful it is to see a student find their muse. I’ve been teaching this unit for the past few weeks, helping my older kids find someone who inspires them and explaining why it’s so important.

I guess with Rex I was just looking at the wrong species.