What My Student Taught Me

By Naba KhanMay 18, 2016

We fear what we do not understand. It’s the the oldest saying in the book, but so often true to the core. From the very beginning of time, we are always searching for our comfort zones. For many of us, once we find that comfort zone, we tend to not venture out of it –and why would we? We are comfortable, we are happy, we are safe. However sometimes, looking at life from a different point of view is essential.

Venturing from that comfort zone to try something new is necessary to grow as a person; we may even discover a newfound love or passion along the way.

And luckily, I had the opportunity to do just that in 2012.

As a college student, I was amazed and overwhelmed at the opportunities before me. I wanted to try everything, but I was also intimidated by what I might experience. As I signed up to take a course at an Autism Practicum, where I would work alongside a child with autism, I was most definitely intimidated. All my life I had grown up around typical children and adults, and had only seen or heard of autism. I feared what I did not understand, and I did not understand autism. I was assigned to work with a sweet little boy –nonverbal but very understanding. The relationship I forged with him in the beginning was confusing and difficult. During the first couple of months, I would not look forward to going there. I felt like I did not understand what I was doing, and as if I was teaching him concepts the wrong way. He could not talk back and express what he was having trouble with, and that only furthered the hardship in my mind.

And then one day I finally realized what I had just needed time to understand all along. As I went through another class with him, I asked him to repeat the word “mama”. For the first time, in my entire year of teaching him, he said “ma”. I yelped with joy and gave him tickles; he took my face in his hands and squeezed my cheeks. At that moment I grasped that what he wanted was to be accepted, understood, and loved for who he was – every single thing that I, you, him, and her want for ourselves too. The only difference is that this boy was not understood the way I, you, him and her are, because he is different in a way that the world does not always recognize.

So if we all just took that time to play, talk, listen, and try to understand every person who is “different” and does not fit societal norms, maybe the social stigma behind it all would decrease –the intimidation, the fear, the confusion too. Every boy and girl, typical or atypical, would be able to feel accepted and loved, without having to think they need to change to fit in. We are all more alike than we give ourselves credit for.

Ultimately, we are on this earth to love, and be loved.

And just like that, my passion, my future career, everything was shifted towards working and understanding this mindset. My approach transitioned from fearing to understanding, from being intimidated to loving. And while my passion lies within working alongside kids on the spectrum, there are so many ways to appreciate and love all people better. There are those who feel like misfits, who have a hard time adapting, and who struggle with society’s expectations. If you and I took the time out to extend a hand of friendship, comfort, and love, it could change everything for the better.

Let's Talk About It!

Sometimes taking a risk can teach you who you really are and what you really believe. Have you ever surprised yourself by taking on a new challenge and discovering you had a passion for it? Tell us about it in the comments!


About Naba:

FullSizeRender-3.jpgNaba is currently studying occupational therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, having graduated from Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. She finds writing to be an expressive outlet, and hopes that her words can somehow touch and influence her readers. She is slightly obsessed with the color yellow, coffee, Grey's Anatomy, and Harry Potter, and finds believing in magic and sunshine to be a way of life.

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