On a Monday morning, I nervously stepped into a classroom containing a big smile and friendly kids who were eager to get to know me on my first day of work. They asked me questions and we were interacting with one another until I noticed one of the kids who were so isolated and guarded. I was so curious and confused at first as I wondered why she did not interact with me.
A few days later, she was stuck on a math problem and I approached her. I asked her questions, gave her clues and interacted with her. In about 5 minutes, I did not get any response at all and so I decided to walk away. To my surprise, she talked back to me and explained her ways of thinking as I was walking away. It happened most of the time I interacted with her.
Initially, I did not care to ask but then one day as I could not contain my curiosity anymore, I decided to ask my supervisor and she finally told me that the girl is diagnosed with Autism. I was bewildered and clueless about Autism or any disorders so to say as I have never heard of it nor have I ever encountered one. So, when I went back home, I did a lot of research and thanks to the Internet, I finally found out what autism was. Although I knew what it was, I still had no idea what and how to approach her in a way that I could contribute a positive impact on her. I remember how frustrating it was for me to come to work every day having no idea how I could work with her effectively.
As I continue to go to work each and every day, I discover more and more about special needs and about education in Cambodia in general. Not only about Autism Spectrum Disorder, but also about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHA), Dyslexia, Short-Term Memory Loss and Articulate Disorder. I realize that there are so many special needs students in Cambodia who need the right support and strategies to work with in order to help them reach their potential, to feel like they matter, and to know that there is nothing wrong with them. We as complex human beings have a very different way of working things out, especially when it comes to learning.
In brief, I would say that the kids and the effort they have put in their learning and everyday life have inspired me enormously to the point where I plan to pursue Special Education in order to come back to Cambodia and work along with other organizations to help tackle and support special needs students in Cambodia who do not have equal access to such supports.