i haven’t posted in a while, mostly because my lack of down time. my recently acquired job fills my fridays and saturdays. i work with an 11 year old boy who has autism. i wasn’t sure if i was up for this challenge at first, seeing as i’m going into cognitive impairments versus emotional impairments, like autism. however, yesterday was my first day alone with the little guy and we had tons of fun. we hung out at the park and played with the squeaky dog toys in Petsmart. aside from giving him his bath two hours before i was supposed to, everything went pretty smoothly. there was a minor freak out when i tried to leave Petsmart, but it was nothing both of us couldn’t handle.
although everyday won’t go as flawlessly as yesterday, i’m sure i will grow to love the kid just as much as the other caretakers do. everyone (including his mother) has warned me that he will try and test me, and i do somewhat see what they mean, but maybe i’m just more relaxed than a lot of people. i don’t see his random little hissy fits and forceful hugs as a problem; i see them as an attention grabber. being nonverbal, he must get frustrated often when he cannot get his opinion out there. he knows a few signs in ASL and i was working on teaching him some more last night in hopes of him one day being able to convey his message. he does have a dynavox (a communication device) but when i pulled it out all he would point to was water. some of you may be thinking, “Emily, maybe he was really thirsty…” and the thing is, he probably was. however, he’s only allowed a certain amount of water each day because of the medicine he takes so water was something i could not give him until he had to take his nighttime meds.
i’m a strong believer that kids like him know a lot more than people give them credit for. even though he can’t verbally tell me what he wants, if i look at him at the right moment, i can feel his need for something. i like getting to know kids regardless of their ability, but getting to know kids like him is more of a challenge…and i enjoy it. everyone has their quirks, he has more than the “regular” 11 year old boy. he puts his toothbrush, toothpaste, and hair brush in a very specific spot in the drawer before he’s satisfied, he loves almonds and will do anything if you bribe him with one (very helpful at times), he hugs you before he bites you, and he laughs when he’s about to act out. from what i just described, he sounds like a terrible kid, which he is not. the only time he acts like a “terrible kid” is when he is frustrated and wants something. i can’t lie, when i want something but don’t know how to get it, i get frustrated as well so i can’t blame him.
it’s weird, but i seem to relate more to children with different abilities. i’m not quite sure what that says about me, but whatever it is, i’m cool with it. i find that kids with different abilities are often not appreciated as much as they should be. i’ve met some incredibly talented kids who are labeled “special ed.”
i was talking to my roommate, Hannah, and we both decided that the term “disability” is not fitting. the prefix “dis” makes it seem like all of the people with disabilities aren’t able to do anything. it makes it seem like their life is a negative when really it’s not. they are differently abled than the majority of people who walk this earth. they are completely able of accomplishing necessary tasks…sure, it may take some accommodations, but so what? my willingness to allow every kind of person to thrive is the reason i am driven to become a special education teacher. i want to give those kids something that many people are not able to and it makes me think, maybe these children with disabilities are not the ones who are disabled at all. maybe everyone else who can’t figure out how to accommodate and understand these kids are the ones who are disabled. maybe that sounds harsh, but life is harsh, homie. you just gotta deal.
just like the 11 year old boy i work with is dealing with his parents who, quite frankly, don’t know how to deal with him. i’ve dealt with a lot of mothers, some terrible, some amazing and his mom is nothing short of amazing. she loves her son but also understands that she does not have the temper, patience, or ability to meet her son’s needs throughout the day. this is why she has caregivers who come in and take care of her son for a few hours to give her a break. she looks for students studying special education, or people who have worked with differently abled kids, so she knows they are capable of coming up with solutions to behavior problems he might have. she was thrilled when i showed her the knew signs i taught him and begged me to teach her some more. she desperately wants to communicate with her child, but right now, she knows he’s better off receiving her love during meals and morning and nighttime routines and then being entertained by others throughout the day. totally understandable.