Today I speak more like a human being sharing experiences of learning and understanding a child, rather than an Occupational Therapist imparting therapy to a so called Autistic child. For the purpose of this article, we can distill Autism’s myriad characteristics into four fundamental areas: Sensory processing challenges, Speech language delays and impairments, elusive social interaction skills and restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behaviors.
Over the past five months, I have had an opportunity to spend some time with a child, who I can best define as a round peg, being expected to fit into a square hole. We have had our share of good and not so good moments, frustrating times for him, his parents and me as we embarked on this journey to understand the perplexing nature of the spectrum. Little did I know that this child was in fact going to teach me a lesson or two about communication beyond words, expressing our true emotions, lessons of unconditional love and being true to one self and others.
His apparent lack of linguistic skills does not stop him from expressing his joy on coming to the unit. His otherwise motor apraxia seems to disappear when he has to run through the hallways to wherever I am. His “do not touch me or I’ll throw a tantrum” is hard to believe when he gives me some of the best hugs ever! He does not make eye contact often, but when he does those eyes seem to portray so much more than words can ever do. When his sensory needs are met, he is so much in the now moment and enjoying every bit of sensation which makes his face glow.
We say that Autistic children lack the language to be able to express their needs, but without the words this child can express his emotions of joy and love so genuinely. How often can we the normal people do that, to be able to say what’s in our hearts and minds with all the linguistic skills and the modern means of communications we are blessed with?
We say that Autistic children show restricted and repetitive or stereotypical behavior pattern. How often do we restrict ourselves in our comfort zones? How often do we repetitively beat ourselves over the same mistakes? How often do we stereotype people, failing to appreciate the uniqueness of every individual? How often do we express ourselves truly, and not be guilty about it. We say Autistic children understand language very literally, how often do we misinterpret people’s words and actions as per our fancies? Autistic children repeat what you say to them, how often do we return the kind words of our loved ones? How often do we listen to our hearts’ calling and be aware of our innate needs and dance to the tune of that calling?
They say that Autistic children cannot make sense of this world; I feel they have made sense of the most important stuff in life. They have made sense of expressing their true emotions, unconditional love and acceptance; they are in touch with their innate desires and dance to the tunes of their free spirits.
If these kids don’t learn the way we teach, we need to teach them the way they learn. They need no fixing, they need to be understood and accepted. At the end of the day, we all have our Autistic moments!
Shruti More, occupational therapist,
Handimachal Kullu Therapy Unit,
7 June 2013