Sixteen, on the spectrum, non-verbal.
Oldest of three siblings, born to deaf parents.
A youngest sibling with the same conditions.
A middle child the only speaking member of the family.
Communication is both a science and an art.
Fifteen and weighing in at well over 250.
Poor communication skills.
Can sucker punch at any time, indiscriminate towards who.
Does their best with being kind and loving.
Third grader with a hard time managing emotions and frustrations.
Aggressive at times, with tantrums able to last hours.
Sharp mind with numbers, attentive to details, kind and sweet at heart.
My name is Isaac Cruz, and I’ve been working with individuals on the spectrum for a number of years now, though at times it feels much longer. Though I could list several other individuals with seemingly similar backgrounds, the three I opened with were among the most challenging I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
Most of us are taught healthy ways of expressing thoughts, feelings, emotions, and frustrations as we age and develop, not to mention how to function within our own homes or social interactions. The hope being that once we reach adulthood or something close to it, we’re able to appropriately express ourselves, and understand how to live an otherwise “normal” life.
Some of us, such as those I’ve worked with, need a little extra help and guidance. Things as simple as a greeting, correctly identifying objects around the house, asking for a snack or how to prepare one, how to voice frustrations, helping with schoolwork, chores, grooming themselves, self-care and interacting with strangers; I’ve had the privilege of providing assistance with each of these daily aspects of life, and sometimes even more, to these three members of society.
Punches and slaps to my arm, chest, and sometimes face; attempted bites, flying objects being thrown; overturned bedrooms, living rooms and classrooms; screeches that would make a banshee run in fear. If I had been asked upon graduating from college “would this be a job you’d be interested in doing,” a thousand times over, my answer would have been a resounding “NO.”
Yet through it all, and nearly six years later, I’ve come to appreciate the work that I do.
When everything aligns perfectly, I, love the work that I do.
Over the years, if there are any important lessons that the families, children, young adults, teachers, and peers doing the same line of work have taught me, it is the importance of patience, care and compassion, and again, patience. Most of us can say we’re patient people, ble to tolerate a lot of annoyances and small day to day inconveniences and be all the better for it. I used to say the same about myself. It wasn’t until I started working with these individuals, seeing first-hand the struggles they go through on a daily basis, how it takes a great deal of patience and an even greater deal of compassion to struggle with them, that I was able to celebrate the victories with them. Seemingly small victories to everyone else, something that could be an anthill to you and I, is seen as a mountain and just as large a victory to those who require a little extra help.
If I may leave you with a few parting words from my experiences: we are, all of us, capable of great love and compassion. May this be a gentle reminder that what comes naturally to those of us who did not struggle as we developed in life, doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Many people have a bit of a harder time developing those certain skills that enable them to live “normal” lives. A crying child in a grocery store may be just that, or they may be struggling to find the right words to express themselves to their parents. Some teenager in a high school class, having an awkward time greeting a classmate or perhaps a member of the opposite sex, is simply doing their best.
It may not happen often, and you may never fall into this line of work, but one thing is for sure: a small act of compassion and kindness may go a long way for someone else.
It will go even further in broadening your own level of understanding, care and compassion, and heart.