|Posted by Nevone Blount on April 2, 2013 at 10:25 AM|
The month of April is the "National Month of..." for plenty of things. Typically, I only acknowledge April as being the National Month of Poetry but this year I'm also acknowledging the month of April as Autism Awareness Month. As of late, autism and those that are affected by it have struck a personal chord with me.
I know that since I've been writing for this site, I've written a lot about autism. There is a good reason for it. I typically don't like to get too personal in writing for things for others but it is relevant here. Since August, I've been working as an assistant for a class with autistic children at a local elementary school. I am certainly satisfied with my job and I enjoy helping the children everyday but at first, the thought of doing this job was sort of frightening.
For starters, I wasn't aware that I would be working with children with autism until I literally got into the classroom on my first day of work. Due to my ignorance of autism, I was a little reserved, leaving most of the "work" to be done by the ladies that I was working with. As the first part of the school year went on, I would just play the background and only take the initiative in certain situations.
It was certainly challenging. I would have to endure the stares of other children and even adults as we walked around the school. Some teachers would look funny when one of my students abruptly made a noise in the hallways. There was even a time when one of my students embarrassed me by screaming in the hallway, which seemed to have frozen everyone in their tracks. At that moment, I felt as though I couldn't do it any longer. I felt like I had to quit.
But I didn't and as the year went along, I learned. The students weren't the only ones who were looking forward to learning everyday. People would ask me how my job was going and I would say "it's going well, I'm learing everyday." And that was true. I began to take it upon myself to learn about autism and the autism spectrum in my spare time. I learned about the challenges that these children face on a daily basis. I became more understanding of autism and as that happened, I became more comfortable.
I know that I was ignorant upon entering that classroom. I knew that I didn't know a thing about autism. I also know that there are plenty of adults who are just like me but who don't care to learn because it doesn't directly effect them. That's understandable and to be honest, if I wouldn't have gotten this job, I may have been the same way. My problem comes when people act as though these children with challenges are lepers or something. Some people act as if their children can't mingle with "those" children. This is where my problem with the ignorance lies. If you are not willing to learn then don't be willing to make judgements on these children.
I enjoy my job because it is gratifying. For once, I truly feel as if I'm making a difference. People's misconceptions about autism are sometimes overwhelming. I know that some people think that my students can't count or can't read (they're kindergarteners by the way) but I love to see them prove those people wrong. I work with some of the brightest, funniest, most caring children in the school. Yes, the challenges are still there. But to see thse children overcome those challenges and accomplish a task is extremely rewarding.
So April, for me, is now a month of poetry and autism awareness. I'm a believer that everything happens for a reason. To be honest, had I known that I would've been working with children with autism, I probably wouldn't have taken the job. And I can truly say that that would've been a huge mistake on my part.