Not everyone knows this about me, but I am fascinated with autistic children (among other special needs), but I loved working with them. Had you asked my supervisor in my clinicals in grad school, she would probably never have expected me to say that, though she told me from early on how good I was with them. I had a difficult time in my Preverbal rotation to say the least...my first kid dropped out, my second kid came for like 2 days then his mother was put on bed rest and she couldn't bring him anymore, and my third kid was well, AWESOME!!! I won't post his name, but after he bulldozed me into the door a few times and I wondered if he would ever like me, we became fast friends and I still think about him to this day. He was a big kid for his age and his smile was bigger than his face! I say my experience was difficult because I didn't know what I was doing and had so much transition (which I took as a sign that I shouldn't be there, I thought I wanted to work with adults at the time), and then 'huge smile' fell during our therapy one day. Actually, it wasn't a fall at all, it was a mis-step. He was coming down the little step stool to the sink, mis-stepped and kinda twisted his leg, which made him cry and the day was almost over, so we just rocked until mommy picked him up and I thought not a lot of it. Apparently, neither did mommy until 'huge smile' slept for hours and was still whiny, turns out 'huge smile' broke his femur, yes that is the huge bone in your thigh! What!?!? I was devastated and cried when she told me. I felt like such a failure, but she wasn't phased by it and 'huge smile' wasn't slowed down a bit! He came in two days later full leg cast (and an extra 20 lbs it felt like) and I carried him around until my supervisor told me I was gonna have permanent back problems from it, so we had to bring in his stroller! 'Huge smile' LOVED food, I mean loved it, when we'd leave snack time, he would shoot back down the hall towards the snack room for more after he already had two servings of snack! LOL! When I did his home eval, he wandered off to his room while I talked to his sweet parents and came back with a fish stick--he had apparently hidden it under his bed from dinner! These kids are hilarious!
That began my love affair with autistic children. This population is one of the most frustrating and most rewarding to work with. Frustrating because there in no 'one thing' that works for any of them, and what worked one day may not work the next, but rewarding because when they make progress you know you've just broken through a wall that desperately needed to be broken, but hadn't been until then. Their sweet, quirky personalities will keep you on your toes constantly and some days they make you want to pull your hair out! Most of them have the most diligent, supportive, involved parents who do so much more than many of us ever dream of doing for our children (not that we wouldn't, it's just not required).
This post was spurred by my activity tonight. After a crappy couple of days I decided that I wanted to see the movie Temple Grandin and since it's not in the redbox and I can't find it on HBO I bought it and it did not disappoint. Clare Danes did an amazing job of depicting this gifted woman who has done so much for the autistic community. I've been blessed to work with some amazing autistic kids and am grateful for the beast that is facebook that allows me to keep in touch with some of them still. I get almost as excited as their parents when I read updates about them and the progress that they are making and find myself tearing up quite often when I read about them or see pictures of them! It has been (and one day will be again) one of my biggest gifts in life to be touched by these special little people who are gifted in ways that we don't completely understand!! If you have any interest in autism, know any autistic children, or want to support autism, you should see this movie!