Over the Summer break I was fortunate to be granted the privileged of teaching students with Autism at the Autism Society of Zimbabwe. Autism has only recently gained some attention in Zimbabwe as a disability that requires specialist support, rehabilitation, therapy and early detection. The founder Helen, has a big heart and great vision of one day building a vocational center for skills training for a means of possible income for the older children. Her team is made up of graduates who volunteer for a small remuneration, in comparison to the workload, their efforts are priceless and commendable.
I was in awe at the hunger to learn these children had. I learnt their language of communication through occasional touches, nibbles and sniffs as they searched for sensory input in identifying me. My days there were inspirational and fulfilling, I became part of the family and part of their routine, which is quite important to the children. I discovered how creative and artistic some of the children are and given the chance to use an I pad they created the most alluring abstract pieces! Of course turn taking was also part of the lesson but each child savored their chance. I also tried to introduce a variety of colors but work was handed in with drawings colored in one color!
On one of our morning walks one child who is working very hard at his speech therapy, but shys away from speaking yelled “Ice-cream!” as a truck sped past. That was a moment of many tears for me! Im back at work now but I miss my morning hugs and gentle touches of inspection from the children. Their moments of awesome when they say a word or point to an object in relation to a previous lesson. When they respond to a greeting without echoing and the best is when they show caring for each other even if it means wiping tears or mucous all over the other’s face.