For all that I’ve started writing, all the thousands of words I’ve already written, and all the attempts to dive deeper, I feel like I just need to say that I fail too. I struggle to reach out to children with Asperger’s, I struggle to support them in the way they need to be, and I know I make mistakes. Life and humans are an imperfect science.
I work with a young child with Asperger’s syndrome. In being able to understand much of what she’s going through, she clings to me. I am able to speak to her in a tone she appreciates and, most importantly, treat her gently with kindness where others would have shown frustration, impatience, and picked her apart.
She is unspeakably grateful for this. And even in her gratefulness, I understand too. I know what it’s like to finally find comfort, security, and safety in someone. I know what it’s like to feel as if you are the only one in a room full of people with your eyes open and theirs are all closed; and then to finally see another person with open eyes. I know that feeling. I know that relief to find those rare people that seem to “get you” for as much as they can. In our world, that doesn’t happen often. I don’t blame her for latching onto me.
And for as much as I am able to understand her, as much as I think like her, I still struggle to help her. As much as I want to share everything I know within me to try to give answers to other people, I can be just as lost and just as helpless. This science is imperfect. And this science is hard. And if you’re struggling with a child or in trying to help someone, know that it is not easy. And the right answers are not always there when you need them.
Today this child was overly defiant. I couldn’t get her to do anything. I tried to bribe her with a treat. I tried to work with praise and consequences within her world of black-and-white. But her sharp brain wise beyond her years, wouldn’t be fooled, wouldn’t be distracted.
I can’t help her. I can’t lift the overbearing trigger of her stress. She knows summer is coming. She knows her world is changing. She knows the happy, safe place she’s come to love so much will never be there again. She knows she’s getting hurled forward into the great unknown. This year, she’s learned the unknown can hurt. She is angry. She is scared. She feels out of control. And she is acting out.
If didn’t have so much going on in our day I could help her more. But I too am restrained to responsibilities, other children, and time. I can’t be there every second to explain things to her. I can’t be there every second at her beckoning call. I just can’t. There is one of me.
I help her as much as I can, but I am only able to do so much and, surprisingly, with all my insight, I can still only understand so little as to what’s going on inside her and how to help.
I wanted to put this out there to say that no one has all the answers and really no one is good at this all the time. It is hard. The best thing you can do is to try your best to understand. Educate yourself. Talk to the child, try to figure out why they feel the way they do and what is stressful. If you can, try to alleviate some of the stress. Look for the wins and the lights. And be forgiving with yourself. Don’t expect perfection all the time in a science that is, in its very nature, imperfect.
Focus on the progress. Focus on the positive. Focus on how each day you learn something new too, even if it is learning an approach to not try again. That is still more than you knew yesterday.
At the end of our day, there was a great win and a great light for this child. If I hadn’t been writing this post, I never would have seen it in my feelings of inadequacy. Look for the wins, no matter how small. Some days are better than others, some days are just… well… you can always look for the day before’s win… Find the good. Remember each day is a fresh start. Each day is another chance at a small victory.
But just know, many, many people are in your situation. And many, many people feel just as lost and just as confused. And little by little, you do make an immeasurable difference and your love is invaluable. You are far from alone. And this imperfect science is hard.