My suspicions were first raised sometime after I started subbing as a teacher’s assistant two years ago. I had returned to my hometown after working in the federal government for over 20 years. It was a new chapter in my life and it rocked my world to go from working for Uncle Sam to working with children. Most of the assignments are with special education classes since that’s where the demand is.Many times I would observe a student’s behavior and I’d be moved to tears. I saw some of me in him or her. I was drawn to working in autism units, but I didn’t know why until now.
In early December 2016, a 12-year-old girl especially caught my attention. She is autistic and frequently talks to herself with words that no one can understand. She’ll sometimes get excited and let out a holler and/or skip across the room. It was like watching myself at her age. I did the floor pacing, talking to myself, visiting my make-believe world. (I still do talk to myself; I don’t skip since my hips aren’t as young as they used to be. HA!) That’s just one example of watching a child on the spectrum do something I did OR still do.
I started doing research on the Internet about the autism spectrum and took on-line tests. Then, consulted with my doctor and teachers of autistic students. Their support and valuable information were of tremendous help.
There are rewards and hardships. My main hobby or interest is writing which has been like a best friend to me ever since I started. Through writing, I have been able to entertain or comfort others while getting therapy for myself. Routine is almost as essential to me as air and water. However, a routine can be a good thing. I believe I was able to lose and maintain my weight for close to 40 years now because once I got on a diet routine, either to loose or maintain my weight, I stuck to it like any other of my routines.
I admit I’m a loner. I prefer to do things alone. It is when I’m alone or when I’m talking to someone I feel comfortable with a one-on-one that I am recharged. It is when I’m with a group of people, small or large, that I am totally drained. My inner reaction to a party invitation is similar to an invitation to a torture chamber. (Just kidding, but not by much.)
So there are challenges but there are rewards too.
The Lord truly blessed me with a diagnosis at the right time in my life, and a job that was a life-changing experience. If it wasn’t for working with autistic students, I’d still be in the dark. Now that I know, my job is more than a job. I am making MUCH less money than I did working for Uncle Sam, but I’m happier. When I help a child with autism with their struggles, I can say to myself, “I know. I’m on the spectrum too.”