Me: Let’s eat lunch!
Boy (6 y/o): (looked around & realized I’m holding his spoon and fork) Zoe, can I have the spoon and fox/forks?
Me: it’s FORK.
Me: Ok, good! Now, let’s ask me nicely on your own.
Boy: Zoe, can I have the spoon and fox/forks?
I received a sad news on the first working day of the week as soon as I arrived at the center that one of my kids left the center, without any proper goodbye. All the memories were replaying in my head while I was tidying up his stuff at his station. He’s the kid that I’ve taken for the longest time. Nearly a year! & this was the last thing he made for me before he went away.
My heart is still aching about this after five days. It was definitely weird not hearing his voice and seeing him walking around in the center. When I had my Maggi goreng at a mamak place just now, I thought of him too, because I saw a little Indian boy. I miss you, boy! I hope you’ll be a good boy at the new school and continue playing the cup song which you’ve self-learned. I hope you know that I was and still am really proud of that. It totally put a smile on my face whenever you did that and I nearly teared when I saw you enjoyed doing that because you’re so talented in music and it was totally appropriate to do so.
Last week, a kid acted out terribly. It’s due to denial of request. He basically bit two therapists. The bite marks were pretty bad that they had to take a jab to prevent any infection. Despite being bitten, they still continued managing the kids on hands and keeping calm. I admire their courage and professionalism. This is what most, if not all, of us would do after being hit, bit, slapped and what’s not.
I understand that many people respect us for doing what we’re doing because to be honest, this is not the easiest and cleanest job any proper college graduate would find. Most days we find ourselves sweating by being super hyper to motivate the individuals with autism to interact or trying to get their attention at the very least. We also got peed/puked on occasionally. We’re more than just therapists/teachers. It requires so much patience and passion for this job. All we ask for is really just simple and genuine appreciation.
Just in case if you’re curious, we (as far as I am concerned & speaking for those that I know of as well) don’t hold any grudge towards individuals with autism even though they acted out so badly and lost control that they hurt themselves and hurt us as well. We understand that they probably got much more physically and emotionally bruised than us. Honestly, we wish they could express in better ways than hurting themselves like that.
Actually, I don’t know where to start talking about this journey. The journey of working with autistic individuals, that is. However, I met up with my friends of 10 years today. One of them is a mommy of two and she encouraged me to start writing down all these amazing memories I have. So, here we go!
It’s always been my dream to work in a field that is closely related to what I’ve majored in school. I thought I should try the corporate life first. But I didn’t really enjoy or love any of them. Sure, I don’t mind working in one of those fields that I’ve tried out but I wasn’t passionate about any of them. You can read the rest of the story here. Last year, I started working with autistic individuals. I love it! When I said I love it doesn’t mean that I’ve not felt beaten or frustrated over it so far. As much as I’m passionate about it, there were times I was so frustrated and wondering if I’m fit for this field.
If you’re not familiar with autism, autistic individuals typically have self-stimulation(s) and they have a hard time communicating with others, as they may or may not be motivated to socialize/communicate. The next time you see a kid (or even an adult) crying and rolling on the floor in the public, please do not judge the parents right away. It’s the parents’ responsibility to prevent that from happening but it could be more than just parenting. It could be autism. Everyday, I see how hard these individuals try to control their inappropriate behaviors. It is actually also very frustrating and stressful for them. They have their good days and their bad days. On their bad days, I couldn’t help but to wonder if I wasn’t a good therapist. I wonder if I could do anything to help them to improve faster. That’s when I was demotivated. But as time goes by, I understand that there are things that cannot be pushed in a short span of time. It is very important to focus on their good behaviors and things that they can achieve, but we got distracted by their inappropriate behaviors and things they have yet to achieve every so often too. Sometimes we could be so distracted by all the negative things about them that we actually started to lose focus and only see their negative aspects. Isn’t it the same in life? We could be so blinded sometimes that we only see the bad sides in everything and everyone but we forget that everyone has their good sides too. And things will get worse when you focus on the negative aspects only. Even we feel frustrated when people keep picking on us for the mistakes we made but never praise the works we’ve done wonderfully. Likewise, autistic individuals are the same. They feel it too. Even though they may not able to express it appropriately. They taught me to look at the bright sides in everything, even on the worst day.
These days, I always reflect things at the end of the day. What is good and what is bad. If I only think of all the bad things, I’ll push myself harder to think of at least one good thing about that day/week/event. Thank you for making me a more positive person. Let’s work hard on our flaws and appreciate our strengths at the same time too!