Autism…now there is a word that has always scared me. When I was pregnant with my second and third child I was in constant fear that I would have a child with autism…mostly because a good friend had received the news that her second child (same age as my second child) was autistic. I was scared with her - this seemed so big to all of us in our mother’s playgroup. We weathered on - we stood strong - we were friends - we were mothers. We loved him and we tried to learn and understand what was in store for him and for their family.
Rush ahead - years later - I begin my present career as a pre-school teacher. I am touched by various forms of mild autism and slowly I learn more and more. I found myself drawn to each of these children - falling in love with them for no other reason than that magical chemistry that just seems to happen between people.
Two years ago a volatile little boy bounced into my classroom - he was autistic and he had a big, loud personality to boot! When he got angry or even moderately frustrated,…LOOK OUT - Explosive! I hung back and didn’t engage him much as I wanted him to bond with my teaching partner - his shadow. So basically - we didn’t interact too much from September to November. Occasionally I would find something that I knew captured his interest, in hope of opening the door between us. We shared a smile from time to time and then suddenly, one day in late November, something changed. While singing songs at “circle time” this little boy came up to me and cupped my face in his hands and slowly began stoking my cheeks and smiling - and the rest, as they say, is History. We just sort of fell in love. We began to share laughs and smiles and developed whole little routines together. I felt comfortable enough to treat him as I would my own child - that is; respecting who he is, understanding what his limitations are and really encouraging what he is interested in - and it also means calling it like I see it - so sometimes it’s a”time out” if need be. Then again, when I stop to think about it, that’s pretty much the way I handle all of my children…and isn’t that what it’s all about? Giving each child the opportunity to be who they are and yet still impose some of the rules and regs that are a part of real life. I love all my kids but have learned to develop a special adoration for the children that I meet who are challenged with autism. Their lives will be a different uphill battle from their peers - but we all struggle in this life and there is room for us all to mark our place in this world. I’ve learned not to be afraid of autism - but to embrace it - to learn from it and to work with it. Basically we all communicate in our way - autism is just a different language…one we need to study and to to share.