For the last three months I’ve been working as a behavioral therapist for children with autism for a company called ACES. I only have one client so far, and the impact she’s already made on my life is indescribable. Prior to meeting her, I had so much new anxiety, from being fresh meat right out of college, from trying to figure out my career goals, and from figuring out how the HELL one is supposed to adult (disclaimer: despite popular belief, 22 years of schooling does not prepare you for the real world). But then I met this child; a child that views the world in such an authentic way.
When I explain my job to people, a lot of people don’t really understand autism or the fact that this disorder lies on a spectrum. People diagnosed can either be verbal or they can be non-verbal. Some are lower functioning and some are higher functioning. Legally, I can’t discuss the behaviors associated with my particular client, but fortunately there are no laws against explaining how she’s changed my perspective on life.
We often think of those with mental illness and those born with special needs as “handicapped” in one way or another, but I don’t see it as that. Their souls are special. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, as cliche as it sounds. I believe that bad things happen to good people so good people have a reason and a motive to make real, positive change. I believe those with special needs are meant to remind us to be soft, humble, and to stay grounded no matter what life hurls our way.
Lately, it just seems like this world can not catch a break. From natural disasters, to mass shootings, the depression just doesn’t seem to end. But then I have my session with this beautiful girl. For legal purposes, let’s call her Sammy. Sammy can’t speak, but she communicates through her eyes and genuine gut laughter. She’s constantly observing the world around her. Her laughs are pure and innocent. She doesn’t worry about what the Kardashian’s are wearing, which celebrity is pregnant, or any irrelevant and shallow drama. She lives in the moment. She’s enamored with whatever toy or object she’s playing with. She loves the sunlight. She loves to watch, to observe. Watching her process the world around her has definitely been a huge wake up call for me.
I found this quote online and it made me think of her. "If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present." -Jen Sincero. Since working with this sweet girl, my anxiety has diminished. She has taught me to live in the moment. She has taught me to look around and smile at life’s simplicities. When this world seems to be lacking innocence, compassion, and understanding, I look to Sammy for answers. If you’ve never had the opportunity to volunteer or work for people with special needs, I urge you to do so. Not only will you impact their lives, but they will most definitely make a positive impact on yours. Despite it all, there’s still beauty to be found, and I am amazed at how much more beauty I discover when I’m with my client.
I urge you all to disconnect from life’s shallow temptations. I urge you to disconnect from political mayhem, your life’s temporary drama, social media and anything else distracting you from staying grounded. Check out every once in awhile and look around you. Look at the plants. Look at the bees. Look at the trees. Look at the butterflies. For a moment, try and remember that we aren’t the only species on this planet. For a moment, forget about your job, school, what you’re going to wear tomorrow, or the new iPhone X. For a moment, remember that we are part of an ecosystem; we are part of a symbiotic relationship with other species who share the same home. For a moment, look around you and see the beauty and innocence around you. For a moment, see the world’s beauty in the same way Sweet Sammy does.