Autism awareness from someone who didn’t know better

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I have been blessed with the amazing experience of getting to know some extremely intelligent kids over the last few months, and look forward to getting to know them more. I can only say that I was uneducated in my ways and thankful that I have been given the opportunity to do what I do for work.

I am a bus driver, but not just your everyday bus driver, I can also be transporting Autistic and other special needs children from home to school on a day-to-day basis on a disability bus. When I found out that I may be doing this, I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous as I had all the medical training needed but was very much out of my comfort zone. The very first thing I did was look-up the definition of Autism:

au·tism (ˈôˌtizəm)*

noun: autism

  1. A mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.

 

As expected, this helped me in absolutely no way, so I had to take it up a notch and do some reading for myself. I won’t sit here and write out all my I findings, as it would be a long blog post that would go on and on and would surely crash the PTPA servers. Truth be told, there are many different disorders that exist on the autism spectrum such as: PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified) and Asperger’s Disorder (also called AS, Asperger’s Syndrome and Asperger Syndrome). In the end, it’s important to take some time to get to know what the differences are, and know that whatever label someone may have been given – they are people, too.

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I have worked with autistic children from all points of the spectrum and I can tell you from experience that no matter where they fall on the spectrum, a child always has ways of communicating with you. One boy, roughly 16 years of age and confined to a wheel chair, always has a smile and a laugh for me when loading his chair onto the bus. With a little effort,  I can sometimes get him to answer me by knocking on a window. He loves music, usually something in the pop or rock area, but will happily listen to most channels on the radio. Another boy prefers to be left alone.  When I drive that particular bus I make sure he is safe and always acknowledge him, but he is happiest when doing his own thing.

My advice to anyone who doesn’t know what Autism is would be to take a little time to get to know it. Although I am still learning, every day that I get to be involved as a driver or an attendant I am incredibly happy to have been able to help in some way.  I will continue to do so as long as they will have me; I have never witnessed children so full of life as these kids. I will probably never understand everything about Autism, but what I do understand is that each and every one of these children are brilliant in their own way. The question is: are you smart enough to recognize it too?

* Google definition

** www.autismsocietycanada.ca

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