The human brain is a mysterious tool
Wow, two posts in two days… this is abnormal for me. But that being said, dear readers, I’ve been thinking about something today. What’s that, you ask? Let me tell you.
As you may (or may not) know, I work with special needs kids (both in schools and respite). My main field is actually with deaf and hard of hearing (so yes, I do know sign language… and no it’s not universal!), but over the past few years I’ve been incorporating the two, working with both special needs and/or deaf students. This has been my career for 8 years, and there are no two days alike. I’ve worked in every level of education, starting off in nursery school, then elementary to junior high then high school and now back to elementary.
The reason for this is, I’ve always been fascinated with the way the human brain works, especially those of special needs people, whether the person being autistic, FASD, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or whatever. No two people are alike, same with being “normal”. One autistic kid may have certain ticks whereas another may not have those. I’ve had this fascination for as long as I can remember, one of my cousins is in the Autistic Spectrum and have a few friends’ who have kids in the spectrum too.
Sometimes, with my student(s), I see that look of determination when they’re trying to figure something out that a “normal” person would find to be a simple task or request and I really wonder to myself, “what are they actually thinking?” Or they have this look of utter confusion when you make a joke or say something that makes no sense to them. I remember once, as I was doing respite with my autistic boy, he was having a hard time so as I was calming him down, we were talking. I told him that he has a good life, he has a family who loves him, food to eat and a “roof over his head”. His automatic reaction was to feel for a roof over his head. He was pretty confused when he didn’t feel said roof, so I explained what it meant. I knew perfectly well that normally with autistic people, metaphors usually don’t work… but it had just come out because to me, he’s a normal kid. Sometimes, just saying the simplest thing can make their entire day, but at the same time, can also make their entire world come crashing down.
I love doing what I do, to see the sense of pride when they accomplish something and are praised for it, or watching them compete (in something like Special Olympics) and you can tell they’re having the time of their life because all the training they do has paid off. There are times when I can “see” the wheels turning in their brains with trying to explain their thought process, and honestly, I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations with special needs people. I’ve been told by many people, “oh you must have so much patience” or “you do such a hard job”. If you know me, you know perfectly well, I have my moments of being patient but it’s the end result that keeps me there. Knowing that I’ve helped someone with a decision or have taught them something makes my entire day. After all, “a day without laughter is a day wasted.”
If you see a special needs person in the community, please make their day by saying “hi” or asking how they are. Trust me, even if they don’t show it, they likely will appreciate it.