Edwin was a cheeky, carefree kid. You would not tell that he had autism at first glance. Not with his confident smile and cheery nature. But after spending time with him, you would later unearth the spectrum that was living with him. He would show you that he is uncomfortable with noises from other kids, that he wants to only do one game for the whole day, will only touch one kind of food and would not mingle freely with other kids at the center.
Getting left by his mother was also something that he would not take lying down. What with the familiarity that he had created with her and now that he had to be left behind, he threw a tantrum.
However, staying with Edwin for the past three years and designing his Individualized education program has taught me so much.
- On the value of honesty
One thing about autistic people is that they are brutally honest. Actually, they are honest to a fault. If you do something together with them, do not expect that they will keep it a secret. No, they will tell. And so was Edwin. But after staying with him, I think this is something that I have learnt to grow. It is a virtue that we all need to develop. The world today is made up of dishonest, corrupt people who are always scheming one thing after the other. They never want anyone to know how they are playing out their cards and so they keep them close to their chests all the time.
- On the value of persistence
Edwin is the most resilient person that I have ever come across. He will try out something until he achieves it. One thing that Edwin has struggled all through at our center is having friends. Some of the other kids avoid him because he is either too honest, outspoken and will not tolerate them having a rowdy party or banter. His social skills are also lacking and he will not know when others are bored by him. But Edwin stands out as that guy who will not give up because of this. So he has relentlessly worked on maintaining a cordial relationship with one of the popular boys in class. And I would say, that he is not doing too badly for himself.
- On the value of confidence
When we were having our end of year school party and we invited so many people, donors, parents and other kids from other schools to our center, Edwin stood out as the guy who made a speech. He talked about autism and how the society needs to learn about it and understand people who are in the spectrum.
At first when he volunteered to do the speech, I was a little bit lethargic. I did not trust him to do it. What if something happened that would make him uncomfortable and he had a meltdown when he was on the dais. I would be the one to blame. But he was adamant; he had to do it. And so the only thing left for me was to prep him up so that he could go ahead and do what he really much wanted.
- On speaking out
Whenever Edwin is uncomfortable with anything, he will voice it out. For one, he was not cosy with the too much noise in the school center with kids chattering animatedly, some shouting, cheering and all that. So, he told me that he could not continue coming to the center since there was too much audio stimulation. And what did we do? We had to get him some noise cancelling earbuds for autism so that he could cope and muffle out any unnecessary noises.