Things Can Only Get Better
Withheld - Massachusetts, USA
I'm not a writer, but I do
have a story to share. When I first
started out in the special education field I had
the opportunity to work with a little
girl that nobody else wanted to take time with. She
was diagnosed as having autism and she was
I was volunteering as a
summer camp aide one summer and had to deliver mail
to the office regarding the
children's background information. I
normally don't read the material, but I had to wait in the office, so
I looked through the pile and found her
submission sheet. The office had
checked that they were going to "reject her
for camp" because they didn't have the staff
to give her the care she needed.
She was prone to
violent tantrums and had little in
the way of communicative ability. Without
a second thought I volunteered to
be her one-to-one aide.
I knew a little bit of sign language
and had just started working with kids with
autism a few months before. I wasn't
really qualified, but they let me have the job.
When I went to her home to
meet her, she was huddled on the living room
couch, her head in her lap, rocking and
humming loudly. Her mother grabbed
her arm and forced her face upwards to meet me. She
had her eyes closed still,
effectively shutting herself out from the world. As
I sat and spoke with her parents
(who spoke in broken English) I noticed that she had moved
from the couch to the floor and was looking at
me. I smiled and she smiled
back. Then she ran and hid
behind the couch again.
I showed up the next day,
fully expecting a tantrum and a difficult morning.
She stood at the door with her mother, smiling, and signed
"hello" and her name sign. I signed
hello back, and my name sign. She took
my hand, and we started off for camp.
The first few days were a
whirlwind of trying to figure out how to communicate with her, how to
adapt camp activities, how to handle her
tantrums. By the middle of the week, a
few of her fellow campers had taken an interest in playing with her.
She looked so happy when they took her
off to the swings, or the see-saws
that I could hardly keep from crying.
I ended up staying with her, as her home therapist for almost 4
years. She was
truly an amazing child...by the time I left she was able to go in
public with her family (before she
would tantrum in public to the point where they couldn't taker
her anywhere...or she would run away and
they would have to have the police find her and bring her home), she
could make her bed and her lunch,
use the bathroom, shower, do her homework, play with her
siblings, and sign and nearly age level.
As much as she learned
(according to assessments and evaluations), she didn't
learn nearly as much as I did as a
teacher. Working with her taught me a
greater patience and appreciation for every small gain a
child can make than I can possibly express. Everyone
had given up on her, and for whatever
reason, she chose me to help her prove them
I guess what I'm saying is
that no matter how bleak the outlook seems, there is always hope.
always a rainbow after the storm. I
know that a lot of school systems, who
lack the funding, the teachers, the training
and insight, often become convinced of
a child's inability's and loose sight of what they can do.
Even if it's just the smallest thing, like blinking their
eyes to say "yes," look at it as a starting point.
only get better from there.