I’ve been working at a special school for children for about nine months now and it has been an amazing experience. It is always a joy to watch the little ones run about, making silly noises and playing with whatever they can get their hands on (everything, mostly) yet, there is always a tiny window, a few seconds where I am covered with a cold blanket of sadness as I watch them fumble around in a world crafted by ‘normals’ and how they are expected to conform and be as ‘normal’ as possible.
These are my reflections. Nothing scientific or technical, really. I am not specifically trained in this area nor has my journey into the world of psychology brought me far enough to be able to make scientific observations or remarks. These are the observations of a common man, in a complex world.
1) I love exploring
The little ones really (really, really, really) enjoy running about, touching things, picking them up and feeling every little thing. They love jumping about, climbing up tables, chairs and cabinets.
They like to fiddle with objects. Common objects that we don’t take notice to are magical toys to them. A leaf, an old wrapper or even a straw. They can play with these things for hours. They don’t need your fancy gadgets.
They just need the freedom. The freedom to run free, fall, get their hands dirty and explore the world as it is without the constraint of societal expectations or definitions of what is good or bad behavior – as long as there is no significant self harm or harm to others.
The problem: The world expects them to sit still. Hands to themselves.
2) I love sounds
They sit still for a second or two before bursting into what seems to be incoherent noises. Sometimes, you catch a word or two of the common language but most of the time, it’s just sounds. Sounds that they make, simply because they enjoy hearing them.
Sounds that capture pure, simple bliss.
On the contrary, some enjoy silence. Some enjoy the moments of tranquility that is seemingly impossible to find in the world of today. While silence may be uncomfortable for some, a minute of silence for them appears to be as they say, golden.
Thought: If what is inside is so beautiful, would you ever want to come out?
The problem: Be quiet, Child. Hush Hush. Speak up, tell me what you want or I won’t give it to you.
3) Your world is a scary world
The sounds of civilization appear to, more often than not, scare the little ones. The social norms that are expect of them are daunting and seemingly impractical.
Occupational therapy allows the children to be independent and to do the things that they are expected to do by themselves. Society, more often than not, demands that things are done the way that everyone else does it – and this scares them.
The problem: You’re always doing it wrong.
4) I communicate differently
I don’t speak like you do. I hear what you are saying but your words are funny to me. I like how some words sound. Some words excite me, some scare me and some have no effect on me.
I react differently to your words, how you say them and how they sound to me. I sometimes enjoy how they sound so much that they don’t even come close to processing what they mean. Remember the silly things you do in some computer games that have no relation to the plot, level or quest but you just keep doing it because it amuses you?
The problem: Listen to me. Be obedient.
5) My thought processes are unlike yours
They see, feel and do things differently. As such, they are often misunderstood and sometimes even reprimanded based on our assumptions. Just because they appear to be doing something, does not mean they are trying to do just that and just because they enjoy doing something that you may not approve of or you cannot imagine someone would enjoy doing, does not mean that it is wrong.
They don’t derive the same pleasure from the activities you partake in, but why can’t they do the things that they actually enjoy doing?
The problem: Do it properly. Don’t do that. That’s not nice.
6) I like it when you enter my world, if only for a while.
They seem to enjoy it very much when you do the same silly things that they do. You make the silly noises that they make, jump about, run around and play as they do and they, for that moment, feel a little more comfortable in our unforgiving world.
It would mean the world to them if you but take a minute to step into their world. Less sympathy, more empathy.
The problem: You have to behave how you want the child to behave. You have to be a role model.
7) It is in my nature to be irrational
The children enjoy doing things that make no sense to us. The little adventures and tasks that they embark on seem pointless to us. It makes me wonder about the point in our childhood where productivity came into the equation of fun.
They enjoy stacking the Jenga blocks a certain way before tearing them apart. They enjoy coloring out of the designated lines with no perceivable pattern.
Senseless fun works for them, and it’s just beautiful.
The problem: That’s not how the game is played. That’s not how it’s done.
8) I’m not normal, I never will be and I am perfectly fine with that.
They do what they do without care or regard for the scrutiny of the ‘normals’ that feast their eyes on them. Some poke fun covertly in their minds. Some shower them with looks of sympathy.
We are so arrogant to think that the world should be as we define it, just because we are the majority. We think we’re better than them just because we do the tasks that we invented much easier than they do.
How far have we fallen from the fundamental sentiments of life that we wake up every morning feeling like we have to make something out of ourselves to be actually living. Why can’t we just..live?
The problem: What will you do with your life?
9) I am special. More than you could ever know.
I’ve always imagined that if they could communicate as we do, they would put us to shame. With all the beauty and magical happenings that go on in their wonderful minds – amazing things that they have difficulty expressing, you’d ask yourself again, who’s the fool ? They’ve gone to the edge and taken the jump while we stand by, looking down fearfully, making assumptions of how horrid it must be down there. Sounds like sour grapes to me.
The problem is not with them. The problem is with us. We set the rules and we expect these wonderful, unique little ones to fit in or live a life struggling to.
It is just pure joy watching them doing what they do with no restrictions. It reminds me that the world is truly amazing. It restores in me faith in people – faith that has been broken over and over by ‘normal’ people who bother with social melodrama and politics.
Perhaps, we need to take a lesson or two from the children. We live our lives trying to stand out as much as possible so we don’t get overlooked or forgotten but we don’t have to demand that they spend their lives struggling to fit in, just because they were born different.
Love them as they are.