I am fortunate enough to work for a transitional program for young adults with Autism. Our school uses hands-on classes and movement therapy to increase vocational skills and improve executive functioning to help these young adults transition into the workplace or college; whatever their end goal is, we help them get there. Working for such a life-changing institution and being around these amazing people has definitely altered my perspective on life.
While we (everyone who is considered “normal”) complain about our jobs, our spouses, our friends, etc., we forget about the people like the kids at our program: the people who struggle to even find a job because of their Autism, the people who might not ever get married due to no choice of their own because it is so difficult for them to relate to others and for others to relate to them, and those who have no friends because no one takes the time to understand them or tolerate their differences. Those of us who are lucky enough to be within a spectrum that is considered to be “normal”, we are so spoiled and we don’t even know it.
My heart aches for these young adults that come up to me with sad eyes and recount stories of bullies, loneliness, and battered confidence. Yes, our students may experience hardship on a level that most of us do not and will not ever experience ourselves. On the other hand, I have seen the joy on their faces when they ride a bike by themselves for the first time, make it through a whole day of classes without having a meltdown, make a new friend, or when they finish a project and tell me that they never knew they could make something that beautiful. They find joy in the smallest victories, in things that we take for granted on a daily basis.
As Christmas season rolls around, our minds are honed in on buying gifts, the money we have to spend on those gifts, what we’re going to be receiving from someone else, or the stresses of travel or hosting family. It’s easy to forget people like our students, whose minds and hearts are on simpler things. All they seem to want for the holidays is to fit in somewhere, to be understood, to make just one friend, to even be interviewed for ONE job, or to gain a level of independence that allows them to simply take care of themselves. I am thankful to work at a place like this and to be involved in these kids’ lives because it’s keeping my mind and heart in check. I spend so much time disappointed in myself for not achieving more in life or not having enough that I forget to be thankful and grateful for what I do have.
Be thoughtful. Be thankful.
Thank you for reading!