I just wanted to say a quick thing that happened today. (But of course I’m an English major so I can’t write anything short even if I think I’m going to. Ha!)

I was subbing in an AUI class (K-2nd grade kids with Autism), and we went to the Fall Special Olympics, which is a much smaller version of the Spring one. The Spring one is all the kids in all the schools in the county and they do a bunch of stuff. The Fall one is just the kids in North Raleigh, only elementary schools, and they only do soccer skills. It was not the most exciting thing ever.

But what I wanted to write about was that I had this amazing experience. We arrived, and sat down on the bleachers in the gym with all the kids from our school (Pre-K Special Ed, AUI, and AUII). All the teachers and TAs were there of course, and most of the kids in our class had parents there as well. The same was true of all the other classes from other schools that kept arriving and sitting down in sections on the bleachers.

Shortly after we arrived was when the parents started showing up. These kids are very special of course. They’ve very different from normal kids. They don’t talk much, if at all, and if they do, it doesn’t often make sense. So when they say something coherent or meaningful you tend to pay close attention.

So as the parents arrived, one by one, each of the kids in our class was so excited to see their mom or dad or both, and their faces just lit up with happiness. One little boy turned and saw his mom approaching, and called out with glee, “Mommy!” and I got tears in my eyes. I had to turn away and force myself to think about something else because I was about to cry.

I felt like the amount of love in that gym at that moment was so powerful that it just was bringing me to tears. I teared up again just now as I wrote that. There was just so much love.

These classes are extremely challenging and there are always teachers who care about the kids, but when you put the kids in an exciting situation, with plenty of teachers around to keep everyone well-behaved, and then you add their parents into the mix, and you see and feel how much the parents really love their children and how much these kids LOVE their parents… it’s just so powerful. Because communicating can be such a big challenge for these kids, but they so clearly have a special bond with their parents that overpowers any lack of communication.

The flip side to this is that there was another sub sitting behind me, also subbing in the same class today. And a couple of times today she commented to me on how she found it so sad to see all those kids with special needs together in one place. There were so many of them. It was so fascinating to me what a huge contrast that was to the way I was feeling… and I think that’s because of the year I spent in the AUII class last year as well as the many days I’ve been subbing in AU classes this year.

When I first started working with kids with Autism, I thought the whole thing was depressing and awful and sad as well. I don’t know when the shift occurred, but obviously something changed because I don’t see it that way any more. Instead I feel amazement whenever these kids bless anyone with recognition or communication because it is such a gift, coming from them.

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