It’s been fascinating to think about the role of communication in the work that we’re doing right now. We’ve been at a school for children with Autism for just over a week now, and it has been quite an experience! Our basic title there is Teacher’s Assistant, which basically boils down to helping keep the kids in line while the teachers help the kids learn basic skills like hand washing while trying to help them develop their verbal communication. Some days, like today, the kids can be particularly rowdy, and even with a 1 to 1 ratio, we had a bit of trouble having them calm down and stay seated. It’s amazing to me to watch the amount of nonverbal communication that goes on, which is most of what I can partake in with the kids, due to the fact that the school is all Chinese and nobody speaks english. My commands for the kids are fairly limited to “turn around” “stand up” and “sit down”, but one teacher told me not to feel too bad because they wouldn’t understand much beyond that yet anyways.
This is a good segue into my second point. Through my work at this school, I’ve been totally taken aback by the fact that in the all of the work I’ve been doing, so much of it still seems centered on me. With only a short amount of time to help these teachers out, it takes awhile to get situated and figure out if I’m doing it ‘right’. The language barrier is a huge contributor to this uneasiness. Although we have friendly conversations every day, it can still be hard to understand exactly what is being asked for, and extremely difficult to ask questions for clarification. Sometimes, I find myself wondering if I’m even being helpful or if I’m more of an annoyance. But, what keeps me focused is that the teachers genuinely seem interested in me and my partner, not only for our conversations, but in actually helping us help the kids at the school. They have been an enormously encouraging part of this internship, and I highly value the time I’ve gotten to spend with them and the kids.