People say ‘drive away the blues’ but for me blue is beautiful, blue is the colour of the sky, blue is the colour of the ocean, blues is my favourite kind of music. There is something about this colour that just casts a spell over me.
So, it’s not surprising that should someone take a quick glance at my wardrobe, the dominating colour would be the 24 shades of the blue colour palette.
Today is a very important day for me as a teacher. When I began my teaching career almost three decades ago there wasn’t a lot awareness of the spectrum of challenges that our learners faced except dyslexia. In my first year of teaching I had a young man in my Year 10 who caught my attention in the first few days of the term ( remember the days of 50 students in your class!). No, he wasn’t boisterous or mischievous or physical or rude in speech.
It was something so different to anything I had ever noticed in somebody before: he didn’t make eye contact even when one was speaking with him directly, he had a very different gait, he had a clearly defined space around him and nobody violated it. There was certainly no slapdashing in his manner of doing things or backslapping that is so much a part of the teenage boy behaviour. As you are reading this you are immediately able to recognise these as signs of Autism but I wasn’t able to then. I just knew he was different. I observed that he had no friends and he wasn’t particularly a cheerful lad himself! However, what interested me more was the other student’s behaviour with him. You would expect that I’m going to talk about how they teased him, shunned him or even targeted him but NO, none of that occurred. In fact, it was quite the contrary…they kept a respectful distance from him and his things, never violated his space, were always helpful if he seemed stuck, would look out for him.
My interest was certainly piqued and I went digging and got to know that he had been in this class since Kindy and that it had been very different in Years 7 & 8. It was only in Year 9 when his uncle who was a psychiatrist in the U.K. came visiting and he immediately spotted that his nephew was on the spectrum. He contacted the school, ran a sort of session. He obviously was a convincing speaker, as he was able to cut through their teenage haze and connect with their caring side and that’s how the change was affected. I then contacted the parents and it was an immensely moving experience for me as a 21 year old to see the bewilderment in these parents who were grappling with the societal and expectations of self from their only child. Well, he was an able child and got a decent grade in Year 10 boards but then we heard the family had moved to the U.K.
I don’t know what happened to him but he has remained in my memory and I have often wondered how he’s travelling in life, what pathways did he take to get wherever he is now, what’s his journey been thus far…
Since I moved to Australia, I’ve taught a fair few children with autism and have been glad for all the support and training available here to teach these differently abled students. Pleased to report they are happy doing what they wanted to do from a techno geek designing sets with Fox Studios to running Medieval Battles!
I don’t stake claims on doing anything earthshattering in this field as the Special educators do but I try to do my bit by keeping abreast with the research that comes through.
Am in awe of the parents and siblings of these children who are the heroes who do everything they can for them.
To all parents, I say celebrate your children whatever their academic prowess. Remember it’s the person you need to love and nurture. If we are able to bring up caring, compassionate and honest young people, rest will fall in it’s place!