You know the diagnosis, don’t you?

On one of my university summer breaks, I was offered a job in a kindergarten for the children with special needs. I was helping with the cleaning, serving the food and washing the dishes. Any free time that I had I tried to spend interacting with the kids. Most of them suffered from severe mental disability and couldn’t talk.

There was one boy diagnosed with autism. He would walk around the room, spin around or clap his hands, but he would never play with other kids or pay attention to other people. I treated him, however, as if he was absolutely normal and as if his condition was of no major concern to me. Coincidence or not, the worker started noticing that he would become alert as soon as he saw me walking into the room. One day I was playing with the other kids and holding some of them on my lap. Although I was not consciously paying attention to the autistic boy, I noticed that he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable staying on his own and that he was becoming jealous of the other kids. And I was right. He was still walking around the room, but he started coming closer and closer and then suddenly jumped onto my lap and gave me a big hug. Who says that autistic children are not able to interact with other people or express their emotions?

The biggest nightmare of the whole kindergarten was a boy, who was extremely active and aggressive and who would start destroying everything as soon as he walked into the room. Thankfully he was not in our group, but one day the workers had to go to a meeting and they asked me if they could bring the boy into my group. I was a bit worried at first. As soon as he walked in, he headed to the shelves and was about to vandalize everything that was on his way. Luckily, just as he was about to throw the first items of the shelf, he started asking a bunch of questions. They were very fast and seemingly meaningless. It looked like he didn’t even care if he ever got the answers or not, but I took his questions very serious and started patiently answering them. The boy looked surprised. His questions from “What is this?” progressed to a deeper level and when the worker returned, we were sitting by a table and talking about how whales give birth to their babies. Yes, he was sitting on a chair and attentively listening to me.

Finally, there was a girl, who was already quite grown up, but still had to wear diapers. She had a squint and didn’t use any worlds apart from “mummy” and “daddy”. As usual, one day she was turning the pages of a supermarket catalog, pointing at different items and repeating “mummy” and “daddy”. Again, I took her very serious and started explaining that her mummy and daddy were not there and that she was actually pointing to a flower. I also showed her that she had a similar flower on her pants. The worker seemed to have lost her patience with me: “You know the diagnosis, don’t you? It cannot be treated. You are just waisting your time”, she said. Even though she was a nice person and I respected her as a professional, I carried my own routines, just as she did hers. Next time again I took time to explain to the girl that it was a flower that she was pointing to and even took her to see the flowers growing on the top shelf of the room. And guess what? The next time, when again I said that it was a flower, she smiled and pointed her finger to the flower on her pants! She really seemed to enjoy it, and soon she learned to identify other items, such as her own pants, hair and eyes.

Knowledge and experience are very important in life, but we should never allow their limited boundaries to constrain our natural ability to explore, learn and discover the truths that have not yet been discovered. When you give all your heart to whatever you are doing, there is no way that you are not going to succeed!

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