The students I teach are amazing. They are mysterious, magical, heartbreaking, baffling, beautiful ... they are autistic.
From the AutismSpeaks website:
"Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe. "
It's the "severe" ones I teach, and love. Many of them are nonverbal, about half of them display extreme behaviors such as self-injury, tantrums, and violent outbursts. I've been either hit, kicked, or bitten on an almost daily basis. Kevin asked me recently how I suppress the natural reaction to retaliate, and I could only say that I don't feel that reaction. It doesn't cross my mind to retaliate, because they aren't being malicious or hateful...it is the only way they know how to express themselves until they learn differently, and it is my job to reach them and teach them.
It occurs to me that God has given me an amazing gift...to understand in some small way the love of Christ for us, through these beautiful but heartbreaking children. We often treat Him the same way: avoiding eye contact and close personal interaction; throwing tantrums; staring at our fingers flicking in front of our face, oblivious of the glories He wants to show us; engaging in self-injurious behavior and hurting those around us, kicking and hitting and biting and hammering those nails in deeper. And though we break His heart, in His eyes we are beautiful, and He loves us. He loves us. And He takes the time to reach us, and teach us.