A Humbling Experience in Melbourne

I had the greatest time in Melbourne with a former teammate, who I’ve realized now, is one of my best friends. On the way to the airport this morning, she says “Best part of your trip, GO!” My brain instantly went to the last day of the trip, maybe because it was the most recent day and the easiest to remember at 5 in the morning, on the way to the airport, when I am trying not to be emotional. I felt some slight pressure, so I named 5 things that we had done over the course of our time that I loved, and then saved the final even of the last day…for last.

I had the greatest time in Melbourne with a former teammate, who I’ve realized now, is one of my best friends. On the way to the airport this morning, she says “Best part of your trip, GO!” My brain instantly went to the last day of the trip, maybe because it was the most recent day and the easiest to remember at 5 in the morning, on the way to the airport, when I am trying not to be emotional. I felt some slight pressure, so I named 5 things that we had done over the course of our time that I loved, and then saved the final even of the last day…for last.

On the last day of my trip here in Aussie Land, I went to work with my friend. She works in an education facility specialized to help and teach kids with autism. Now, I have some experience with higher functioning autism (what was formerly known in the DSM-5 as Asperger’s Syndrome) but was not entirely prepared for the level of special needs that my soon to be new friends needed. My friend has given me warning that some of my soon to be new friends were either non-verbal or had very limited vocabulary. Some of them had self injurious tendencies, or tendencies to harm others. Luckily, I was only there to shadow, so I would not be experience most of these behaviors hands on, right? Mmm, NOPE. Wrong.

Now, let me just say here, that I LOVED every bit of the time I spent in this wonderful place. The teachers and educators that I met were so friendly and lovely, and you could tell that they loved their kids. It was amazing. Upon meeting the staff, the students started to arrive. At first, I didn’t say much to the students unless prompted by a staff members. In my limited experience, kids, especially those with special needs, do not often like change in routine or new people. So I was cautious not to upset any of the students by just talking or bombarding them with an introduction. However, to my humbling surprise, the kids seem to take to me in their own way.

The first friend I made (none of the staff or students mentioned will be named), I will call him Friend 1, was a younger teen boy. I had been forewarned that he has minimal language and has a tendency to bite himself or others when he is frustrated or not having such a good day. Okay, noted. But, to my surprise, when Friend 1 walked in, he said hi to me after being prompted, but then proceeded to crawl in my lap, say “tickle tickle” with the biggest smile on his face. Naturally, I smiled back all bugged eyed and happy and tickled my new friend, as he asked. He uttered a couple other phrases, which I had to ask what he meant or what he needed, but once I found out, I obliged and it was great! Later on, however, he wanted to go home and was not having the best time, upon crawling in my lap again and expressing that he wanted to “go home, go home” he proceed to bite me… in the face. It was fine, I had been warned so I didn’t freak out or scare him, just talked to him and he was visibly sorry, but maybe wasn’t sure how to express it. If anything, in a way, this made me fall in love with this kid first, in the comfort and expression that he showed me as stranger in his environment.

But moving on to another friend that I made on a walk in Fox Forest (which, you wouldn’t know by the name, but this forest and trail that we were on was actually swarming with the cutest bats I have every seen…not foxes). This friend, Friend 2, is a bit less verbal and more physical than Friend 1. I was a bit nervous to interact with Friend 2 specifically, in hopes not to over stimulate him or upset him. His teacher (the friend I went to Australia to visit) was immediately put to work upon his arrival, as some of the activities we started doing were triggering for him. I will not go into detail, for the sake of privacy, but let’s just say I was intimidated. However, again to my surprise, when we got into the car to go to Fox Forest and I was sitting next to him, he asked to hold my hand. And there we were, holding hands and calmly looking out the window (as a note, Friend 2 often says “hands” and you should oblige so that he feels grounded and comfortable). Again, very humbling and gratifying to know that Friend 2 was comfortable with me, considering I was also a stranger in his environment.

Upon coming back from our walk, I made some other friends, hung out on the swings and got the hang of what some of them needed or wanted from me as a friend or as . a provider. I felt comfortable in our interactions, as if they were just more students in a class that I had been teaching for months. It never failed to surprise me how happy they were with me being there, like I fit in their puzzle. It was an amazing, humbling experience that I was so happy and grateful for. As most kids do, those students have forever impacted my life, the way I see students with severe special needs, and the facilities that aim to aid these wonderful humans. But more importantly, this experience showed me how having a positive attitude and speaking to people as they deserve to be treated, no matter what, can lend itself to rewarding results. This message below, which was sent to my friend by one of the veteran staff messages [upon receiving pictures of us and the kids that I cannot show] warmed my heart upon my departure from the center:

This experience, as well as many similar past experiences, reinforces why I love the career that I have….well that chose me.

This is my story, this is my journey.

Until next time,

Jaym

Published by Jaymee Vee

Being a black woman has its perks and it’s challenges. As a 27 year old educator, traveler, and athlete, I aspire to candidly shed light on my journey through my blackness and my womanhood, and promote positivity, growth, and all the things!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: