“How was your university today, Becca?”
It’s a simple question, but for M, it wasn’t always. He’s buckled in the passenger seat of my Toyota fiddling absent-mindedly with the air conditioning dials. We’re leaving the McDonald’s drive-thru where he ordered his Chicken Mcnugget Happy Meal with Coke all on his own.
“I had a really good day, dude! Thank you so much for asking. How was your day?”
He’s dressed head to toe in Adidas Originals–perks of being an only child.
“Today we do the adventure, big adventure at bike day but I don’t have my bike today. I only have my iPad,” he says about his day at daycare, without pausing for breath.
I first met M when I was hired as a childcare assistant at that same daycare early in 2013. I was hired as his “inclusion support” worker. My job description: Assure that this child with additional support needs receives equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of the program. But for true inclusion purposes, the other children were not supposed to be able to tell that I was his “worker.”
Little did I know, it would be much more complicated than that. At five years old, M could hardly communicate and the few communication skills he did have, I didn’t yet understand well enough to decipher. Frustrated at his own lack of verbal skills, M would punch me, kick me and spit. He flapped his hands almost constantly but especially when he was excited or angry. Mostly though, he would run. We didn’t exactly blend in.
This page by Autism Speaks debriefs some common autistic behaviours like the ones M displayed as a kindergartener. https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/symptoms
It seemed like more than I had signed up for but it wasn’t long before M and I found ways to understand each other. Whether it was singing the alphabet together or cracking inside jokes to keep us laughing, we made it work. One of the first things that brought us together was the song Oh, Mr. Sun. It was just like any other nursery rhyme but it became an easy way for us to relate when verbal communication just wasn’t an option. It still gets us laughing today!