I have been incredibly, overwhelmingly blessed to find work this year as an aide in a classroom for children with special communications needs. Many of the kids in our classroom have a diagnosis of autism.
I had no personal experience with autism beyond a child in my son's class last year, and even then I'm not sure if that was his diagnosis. But I'm learning, thanks to the amazing children I work with, everyday. I was honestly just looking for a job that would just have me home in time for Joe-Henry, but with every day I'm realizing that I am where I am supposed to be.
Where I want to be.
My first day, I arrived a little early to meet the staff and get my instructions. I honestly didn't know what to expect in terms of how we'd be working, but I felt good enough about my meeting with my bosses that I'd at least survive until the end of the day.
The best advice I have ever gotten about doing my job came from one of my kids. It was actually the first thing he ever said to me.
I'd met him at the bus, this little person, and when I introduced myself he said: "Think Outside The Bun".
There isn't a day that goes by in that classroom that I don't use that as my mantra. It's served me well, and I hope that has helped me serve THEM well. I am moved daily by their triumphs, their challenges, and their humor. Truly, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't have a whole body shaking laugh. These kids have a killer sense of humor. They can break your heart, too. But we don't stay there long. We just can't.
Yesterday, one of the kids I work with asked me to draw Illinois. He knows every state in the union, knows their capitols, their most populated cities and knows where everyone I've ever come in contact with lives. That's what we talk about at recess. Mostly that's all we talk about. But he has recently begun asking other questions like "How is your husband?" and "How was your spring break?" These are not just questions to me. They are huge triumphs.
Anyway, back to my attempt to draw Illinois. It hadn't been my first time drawing it, so I thought I could do it from memory. When I finished, I handed it to him. He looked at it. He turned the white board around. He handed it back to me.
And THAT is why I love my job.