Saturday, March 26, 2016
Warning: this post is a little raw, emotionally speaking. Some wounds have the potential to be opened as I write. Expressing emotion is VERY much out of my character, but I do feel that the best teachers get a little emotionally involved. Forgive me if this is scattered and not as positive as I typically am. This one's real life, folks.
I had a student that I believed I would adopt. I believed my husband and I could bring him into our home and into our lives and give him exactly what he, and perhaps I, needed: a family. I learned a lot while working with this sweet buddy, both in and outside of the classroom. He could light up a room with his smile, he was ALWAYS up for a celebration, he loved every part of Christmas and began planning his birthday party 10 months in advance. He sought proprioceptive input in the most endearing of ways. He connected with those he felt safe with and communicated with them in the best ways he could. He loved Google Images and could surprise you with his vocabulary regarding preferred items and locations, despite being considered functionally nonverbal. One day, while on a school break, I received word that this young man was being moved and it is very likely that I'll not see him again. It's absolutely heartbreaking, but I must live with the understanding that if he is supposed to be in our family, he will be. If he needs us as I believed he did, we will be given the opportunity to welcome him into our home. I learned so much from this sweet guy while he was in our classroom family and when I worked with him outside of the classroom, so I was hoping to use this platform to memorialize him in my life and share some of what he taught/reminded me.
Through my little buddy, I was reminded that autism is greater, stronger, more dominant than any relationship/bond that one might have. There is nothing "typical" or "textbook" about it. Each person, each situation, each experience has the potential to be very different. It is both beautiful and ugly, both relaxed and intense, both scattered and focused, both joy and pain. It is not simply a lack of social skills or, as I have heard it put, "home training". I had the pleasure of meeting with a couple this week that is very involved in the life and education of their son with autism. In our conversation, we noted that autism is so much more than a puzzle piece, more than a shirt, more than an awareness month. It's hard, it's needy, and it's wonderful. The life of the parent of a child with autism is one of advocate, of support, of strength, of proactivity, of problem-solving, of persistence, of determination. It's lonely and it's full. Were we ready for this life? Honestly, I'm not sure. Is anyone?
He taught me that a connection does not have to be spoken, that it can be shown in many ways, such as simply by needing that person to be near. He taught me that sometimes you hurt the people that you feel the most comfortable with because life is hard and communication breakdowns are harder. He showed me that life is full of beauty and reasons to smile, even in the 'everyday'. Through him, I was reminded that every day can be celebrated, exclaiming "Hooray! Hooray!", even on a random Tuesday. I learned the effects of sensory therapy and was able to see it work before my eyes. Above all, I learned that kids are worth fighting for...and that not everyone is willing to fight.
This precious guy has changed me and my approach to teaching. I vow to be better, to push harder, to advocate stronger, to do all that I can to speak for those who cannot. I'm sorry, little buddy. I'm sorry I couldn't do that for you. <3