I was once working with a child on the autism spectrum… (not H) and this opportunity had me considering, I mean really considering, what it must be like to be him. He had so many challenges and did not use words to communicate.
How often do we have our world, our schools, our expectations set up so that it is those with the social cognitive challenges that are expected to “fit in” and “get it”, instead of having those of us with the social cognitive strength doing the work – or at least a fair part of it?
Our work together was challenging, but often joyful. I was relaxed and counted upon his ability to communicate the pace, and my ability to read his language. He was learning to trust that I was going to watch and notice what he was saying, and he was becoming more engaged. If autism is considered a disability that (among other things) affects social interaction – then it seemed right that we should be working on a relationship and communication. During our time together I was considering – as I have so many times – how often a child like this is forced to bend to the agenda of everyone else. I think we sometimes call this intervention – or therapy.
I couldn’t squish this kid into doing my will, and I didn’t want to, but together we made steps toward understanding each other. I did not want to impose my plan on this other being, and then when I could make him bend to it, point to it and say, “See – wasn’t that effective.”
If I really want to have an impact with the work I am doing, whether it is with children, parents, or educators, it is important to notice, honour, and respond in a meaningful way to what they communicate about themselves and their experience of the world around them.
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2011)