: A short story about AUTISM
I paid the cab fare and the cab man assisted me in getting my luggage out of his car. I opened the gate just how he had thought me to. As I stepped into the compound with my box of cloth in one hand and hand bag in the other; the sight of a little boy, say in his fifth or sixth year, running towards me, startledme. He ran to me, throwing his arms wide in the air as he hugged me and begged that I carried him. His words, “Mama, see, friend. Carry, carry, friend.”
I was totally confused. What was happening here, I thought to myself, scared to death. But the mature veins in me would not allow me show a six-year-old that his actions were scary. In the middle of this, a lady in her mid-twenties ran towards us, as she called out, “Toma, so this is where you are. Come back here, now.” When she got to us, she pulled him towards her and said, “Sorry ma, he doesn’t easily like people, so if he sees someone he likes, he would say those words: Mama, see, friend. Carry, carry, friend.
I just nodded, like I understood what she just said and made my way to the Boys’ quarters, where my fiancé lived.
Some hours later, after I had freshened up and prepared dinner for my man, I remembered the very confusing and scary scene that happened earlier and chills ran through my body. That boy doesn’t seem normal, or was it just me, I thought to myself; then, decided to wait for my fiancé to get back from work so I could get a clear picture of the whole thing.
When he got back, I recounted the scenario to him and he said, “that is strange, because, he has never smiled at me or anyone I know before; he just plays with his help all day. He is autistic.”
“Autistic?” I repeated, more like a statement, because, he said the word in such a way that insinuated that everybody knew what it meant, so one must be dumb if one didn’t know what it meant. And DUMB, wasn’t the picture of me I wanted my boyfriend to have. So I decided to figure it out myself.
The next day, I spent the better part of the day at the window watching this little child spend the day with his help. He was a handful, I must say. He ran round the compound often, making funny noises as he ran.
About 2pm, she brought his lunch downstairs and they sat on the swinging chair, behind their building, just in front of the window which I was watching them through and she fed him. From where I was, I really couldn’t make out what it was that she fed him, but I guess it was jollof rice. As he ate, he told her about his holiday in China, which he kept mixing up with a horse ride he had with his Mum at the beach in Lagos, Nigeria and his time in America. Nothing he said made any concrete meaning to me, but his help seemed to understand him just well.
When I got tired of trying to figure it out myself, I ran to google for help. As I read about Autism, it all made sense to me. I found out that autistic people are people with neuro-developmental disorder. They have socio-interactive difficulties, communication challenges and tendencies to engage in repetitive behaviors.
I found that some autistic people also have sleep deficits, intense mood swings, anxiety and constant hyper activeness. They may not exhibit typical body language and have no clue what different body languages depicts.
I did not understand this. He looked normal to me. He laughed and smiled normally. He could talk –just never seemed to make much sense at times-. How then was it that this little boy looked normal and yet was not?
I began to imagine how his brain operated, but it wasn’t a successful venture. I then thought about his parent and what they would have gone through when they found out that he was autistic; how they had to adjust to him and finally accept him. I instantly felt the urge to cry.
Then I remembered what his help said to me: that those words he had said to me the other day, he only said to people he liked and accepted. I came out of the house and went infront of the boysquarters, I stood at a spot open enough for him to see me.
He looked at me and then took his eyes off. He did this again and again and again. At what felt like the tenth time, his gaze met my smiling face and then he ran to me, shouting, “Mama, see, friend. Carry, carry, friend.” I immediately bent down and opened my arms wide so he could run into it. As he got in front of me, he stopped and started smiling. I remained in that position for about two minutes, waiting for him to acknowledge my embrace, but he just ran back to his help.
I went back to the house.
I spent the rest of my stay at my fiancé’s, surfing the net for new tactics in relating with autistic children.
As I left Lagos, for school in Ogun state, Nigeria, I thought about the life we live. How we all have ambitions and dreams and visions for our future. How we map out plans for our lives and sometimes forgetting that our existence is purely by the grace of God. Two weeks ago, I realized I had no clue that there were people out there who looked totally normal but lived their lives with no big vision nor dreams for the future. They do not know what hustle means nor what it means to dare to achieve greatness.
The 2nd of April was a very impactful day. It was a day that humans stretched helpful hands to their fellow humans. A day when we send encouraging words to very unique people. It was World Autism Day.
I dedicate this piece to every Autistic child. This is me informing you of the birth of a generation who understands that you are Always Unique, Totally Interesting and Sometimes Mysterious. We love you.
And to their parents; I admire your strength and the beauty of your heart. Indeed, raising an autistic child can only be done by gifted humans like you. You are appreciated
#Happy World Autism Awareness Day