I have a very rewarding career working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am rewarded every day and I enjoy going to work. I actually look forward to it! That is the goal isn’t it? Find what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.
Why I love it! Children with ASD are brutally honest. They do not understand the complexity of social norms and hence will speak directly and to the point. Typical children pick up at an early age the concept of empathy and that there is more to the world than just them. Children with ASD have more difficulty understanding this concept and will say what is on their mind. If you are fat they will tell you “you’re fat”, if they don’t like your hair they will tell you ” girls are not supposed to have short hair”. It is very refreshing to listen to these children speak what is on their mind and not have to worry about what they should and shouldn’t say.
We get to celebrate every day. Most days we can find something to celebrate about. A child communicating for the first time. Verbally or with adaptive communication, that is huge! A child after weeks, maybe months of working on a skill achieves it! Every new skill gained, word said or breakthrough in how to tap into that child’s world is a celebration. So every day we celebrate!
I am challenged every day. Children with ASD do not follow the standard progression of development. They may be unable to do a skill because of a deficit in a motor skill, a processing delay, or a sensory sensitivity. It is my job and my team’s job, including the parents, to determine what is the issue that is preventing them from gaining that skill. We have to be extremely creative and observant to figure out how to help that child gain the skill they need.
As much as I am challenged every day, I also learn every day from the children that I work with. I may learn how to better interact with a child with a sensory processing difficulty. I may find a strategy that works really well to calm down a child that is having a melt down. I may learn why a child will not eat a certain food and find a different way so that they can get the nutrients that they need.
There is a saying “If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism”. No two people are alike, no two children with autism are alike. They are as individual as a snowflake. Therefore I never have a day that looks like another. Every day I learn, get challenged, celebrate, laugh and even cry. But no two days are the same. That is why I love working with children with autism…Happy Autism Awareness month.