What would be life without food and friends? Perhaps we’d feel physically, mentally, and emotionally hungry. Talking about friendship, long time ago Aristotle, an ancient Greek thinker and philosopher, said: “What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.” For some, thats how it feels!
As a leader in the special education, we know exactly how “special” children with Autism are. Autism Speaks defines this condition as “a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.” If you do not communicate and socialize, how can you make friends? How can you be happy and a normal member of society? The story of a 10-year-old boy might help us answer these questions.
In an article, written by Erik Raschke, a father tells his son’s bittersweet story. It’s sad yet gives hope and makes one think. It feels strangely hopeful because the opportunities for people with disabilities are growing; the patience of our society is growing. We are starting to embrace the different and help them have “normal” lives.
“My son is 10 years old, but he does not know how old he is. He does not know which country we live in. He cannot tie his shoes, brush his teeth, count higher than four. Only within the last month has he begun to remember his last name. Still, ever since he was first diagnosed with his neurodevelopmental condition at the age of 3, I have always recognized the tenebrous clues of consciousness glowing behind his eyes. I have learned from our staccato conversations that locked within his brain is a desperate soul who cannot communicate verbally but is brimming with delicate, tangled narratives.”
A desperate soul locked within a boy’s mind. This soul also wishes to express itself, wants to talk and be heard. The boy needs a soulmate, a friend, and he found one – a plastic Playmobil doll, called Watty.
“His best friend, Watty, a Playmobil doll, will skip through the various Lego or Duplo rooms saying, “this room is like the gym at school where the echo hurts our ears” or “this is the room where we hide during birthdays.” I will give my son a zerbert on the back of his neck, and he will howl but say nothing. Later, I will hear Watty ask, “Your father thinks you still like zerberts, doesn’t he?”
It’s admirable that this boy’s parents let him be what he is – odd, strange, weird to some, yet a human being – unique; yet a child who wants to play and share his imaginary world with someone. By taking away his doll, you won’t make him play with other kids; on the contrary, you doom him to live in a cold and lonely darkness.
“In the past, children with autism chose to be by themselves, muttering into the air; they lacked souls, were born of cold mothers, were more concerned with themselves than the world around. Now we understand, as explained in Naoki Higashida’s enlightening book, The Reason I Jump, that for those with autism, social engagement is far more painful than the dull ache of exclusion.”
Despite the boy’s parents’ awareness of the fact that Autism Spectrum Disorder is incurable, they still believe that their little boy’s life could be easier, happier and less lonely… even if it means that his best friend is a plastic doll.
“I do believe that there are ways to make autism more livable, though, whether it be through diet, magnetic stimulation, or the multitude of physical and mental therapies available. I also believe that there is enough compassion and tolerance in the world to accommodate the oddities of autistic behavior.”
Hope! There is always hope as long as we stand and work together. And there is good news. Do you remember we wrote about an awesome UK teacher who inspired an autistic student? Or the article about all the new work opportunities for people on the spectrum? Stay tuned in for more amazing information on people who continue to defy all odds and surprise us every day!
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.