AUTHOR: AKSHAYEE SHETTY
It is almost a year since SK has been struggling and also not to mention surviving. There have been times when I thought that the sinking feeling will never leave me and also times when I could not help but feel exhilarated beyond expectations. Maybe that’s how dreams take shape – the process is a roller coaster ride and the product will hopefully end up being a bright shiny phoenix.
Amongst all the chaos and celebrations there are moments that I wish never leave my memory. Hence, as part of our SK journey, I have now chosen to bring back one of my most cherished friends – which is you (for today) and will start writing my diary online. It called blogging these days.
The reason you were chosen today was because I think I met another calvin today. It is a young lad who is as or maybe more warmer, with very wise words and a lot of positive energy and joy all about him. He is such a charmer. The first thing that hit me about him were his lovely, big perky twinkling eyes filled with hope, wonder and delight. Then followed a gentle yet well-defined chuckle that would light up any space with bliss.
While I watched him walk around and chat with his mother and my partner about the various things he saw at the center, I was filled with such admiration. Sometimes, we very easily forget how difficult it is for a child on the spectrum or with difficulties to perceive and absorb his environment. I was filled with marvel. These are things that come naturally to neuro-typicals and hence, one does not even stop to think how hard it could or may have been if one was not a neuro-typical.
It was only after a good hour he had spent in the unit, that I eventually managed to pull myself off to interact with him. I spoke to him about how all the boys did art or carpentry or even screen-printing as a part of their daily activities. He watched my other boys in front of the HCL interactive dual touch smart board playing games and solving math and science questions.
Then we walked around and he started telling me about his fascination with collecting things like cars, games, books etc. I was intrigued at the level of interest and variety that the child had built in his life and how intricately he remembered details of the things he was collecting.
While we were standing beside the bookshelf, he told me about the books he liked, the collections of stories he enjoyed reading. While we chatted, I asked him about his school and he immediately said –
“Ahhhh!!!! It’s a crappy school… they use to understand me when I was in 5th grade but now I think that they just don’t care.”
I was overwhelmed listening to the words that came out of his mouth. How articulate I thought. Then immediately desperate to know more, I asked him why he thought so. In reply first his eyes shot glances on all directions and his face writhed and after a second or so he mustered himself up and said –
“… that’s coz I have a learning problem.”
The minute these words were spoken, I felt a sudden excruciating pain shoot through. I knew exactly what he meant, the burning bile hit my throat making me feel nauseous, a chill went down my spine and my knees would have given way while my face would reveal the true state of my mind. But that’s not what was taught to us in training. Stating the obvious is one thing but expressing the obvious is definitely not understood in the perfected adult world. Aiming nukes at ourselves from space in the name of security is perfectly understandable and also acceptable but expressing anger, disgust and repugnance for the teachers and a system that forces a child to think that he or she is any less able or that they are disordered is absolutely tolerable.
While, I was trying to deal with my disordered mind at that time, I continued to peer at this young lad. He did not make any eye contact with me and the much too familiar darting glances began while his body weight shifted from one foot to another very uncomfortably. It did not last more than a minute in real time but in my head it lasted for much more than that. I was aware that this lad was worried about how I would react to the disordered state that he had been bracketed into; almost waiting for a harsh and unpleasant judgment or maybe he was giving me the chance to slip away without saying anything at all.
As soon as I grabbed a hold on myself, I bent lower to make eye contact and smiled while I said –
“My darling, it’s not you who has a learning problem instead the truth is that they have a teaching problem, so don’t worry.”
It was something that I always wished was told to my younger brother when he was bracketed as a weak student in class. My brother has dyslexia and still finds it difficult to write and spell things. But he was always met with nasty words and scales on knuckles. He has come a long way and the computer saved him so, today he is a passionate gamer along with being a software engineer. But the past will always linger in memories and is very much an important factor for defining a personality. It is these details that the teachers forget while dealing with children. They must realize that every action has a consequence and to push a child towards isolation, rejection, dis-empowerment and boredom is not why gurus were considered essential in our culture. People must teach with passion and not with petulance.
I walked away from this young charmer after saying those words, mainly because I needed a minute to shrug away the tear that I felt filling my right eye. The precious one also walked inside to the kitchen to join my partner and his mother.
As I walked, I remembered all my young ones with all sorts of such stories, from Scotland; and now in India and I could not help but think of how dangerous we have become for our own precious ones.