I have recently gone back to work.
I started slow, I applied as a substitute teacher in our school system, I started getting calls in the late fall.
I loved it. I loved the flexibility. If I had something going on, when the call came in, I could just say no. I had made myself available to my daughter's school, so that I didn't have to worry about childcare. She comes in with me and we go home together, very fun. Especially fun on Fridays, we made a deal that if I got called in on a Friday we would treat ourselves to Dunkin Donuts in the morning.
The calls were coming at a pretty good pace and it was nice to have some "extra" money. (Is there ever really extra money? Not in my house!) Then I got a call that will no doubt change my life.
I was asked to substitute in a special education room. I went in, ready to help as always and had a really great day with the kids. It is hard work and challenging, but I thought I held my own.
Apparently, the school felt the same way, because they asked if I could help in that class , full-time, until the end of the year.
They are down one, one-on-one aide in that class and are in the process of hiring a new one. I have agreed to stay on until they find someone or until the end of the year, whichever comes first.
I don't want to get into details about the kids, but I want to say that other than small doses, this is my first experience with autism. I cannot believe what an eye opening experience this has been. I am learning something everyday, and it's only been three days! I am exhausted in a way I have never been before, but I am also content in a way I haven't been before. Deciding to do this was out of my comfort zone, but I am so happy I am doing it.
I know many of my friends are dealing with autism on a daily basis with their own children and I have always admired them and their positive outlooks and daily determination, but I didn't have any experiences of my own to really consider what their lives might be like. To say I have been humbled is the understatement of the year.
Last night, my husband took me out to dinner to celebrate my "full-time" employment. ( I put that in quotes as it's really only for a month and a half) When we had finally had settled in and ordered our meals, he asked me, "So how is the job? How is it with your student?" (He doesn't really talk like that , I am just trying to avoid invading any one's privacy)
I looked up at him and I burst into tears. I was exhausted, I was emotionally overwhelmed, it was completely unexpected on my part. I wasn't crying because I made a mistake in taking the job or that I was counting the minutes until they hired the permanent replacement. I was crying because my student is amazing. I can't imagine what it's like to BE him. I wonder if he knows how much I already care for him, and how I want our time together to be a success for him. I see how hard he tries, how he just can't help himself sometimes and I also see how other children react to him. At that moment it was all just too much.
I am eager to learn as much as I can in my time with these children. This experience has awakened something in me that I never knew existed. My heart is bigger, I am grateful for the blessings in my own life, and my eyes are wide open even if they are full of tears.