You spot a small child who is rolling around on the floor in front of a shopping centre and shouting; the child’s parents try to lift and get the child up on his/her feet. You approach them and you recognize your classmate from years ago. You clearly see that they are nervous, so you nod and wave to them, indicating that you would call them later.
Once you meet at a café, you ask your ex-classmate which school his/her child attends. Your classmate is happy to tell you that his/her child goes to a special class of a segregated school. Then your classmate tells you agitated how he or she trusts development pedagogy. However, he or she does not know yet what to start with.
When a new child enrols into our special class for autistic children, I and my colleague – who is my wife – draft a development plan jointly with the parents. This development plan varies child-by-child.
If the child enters our class without previous training, then it may happen that it turns out only at this point that the child has agoraphobia. The child may react to such situations with crying, by staying in one place, by throwing a tantrum or with a conniption fit. And our school indeed has wide spaces. Our dining hall is large, our corridors are wide and long – all these we have to use regularly.
A few years ago, a lovely autistic girl enrolled to our class, who was fast as quicksilver. It soon became evident, that she was afraid of “nothingness”, emptiness and wide spaces. We started her development in a complex manner; however, we needed to dedicate much more time for her to become more relaxed in wide spaces. The development time dedicated for this increased pro-rata: just as our labour time.
Initially she could walk to the end of the corridor, however, coming back brought her to tears; she dared to step up only two steps on the stairs, she was able to enter the dining hall, however, she was not able to walk even a few metres, and she was unable to dine there. We tried to convey her real emotional manifestations in this short video.
We literally took the step-by-step approach on all school days. Sometimes it meant that we could take one step forward and two steps back, then we started all over on the next day, then, on the third day, we took two steps forward and one step back. In a mere semester we achieved that she could eat in the dining hall freely, calmly and to greet the school managers on the second storey happily.
Sometimes we encountered new obstacles on our way: a ventilating fan, members of the service staff, or even service men standing on ladders, or we met large doors. There may be ups and downs at all areas of development at given times. This is a well-known fact.
Either of us took walks with the little girl on the corridor, our partner learned with the boys in the class room – they also needed as much time, only at different developmental areas. The “strolls” we took with her was not during our work time, because we took shifts either in the forenoon or in the afternoon.
But think for a little while, if we would not have “erased” her fright, then she would still eat her meals in the class room and the class could not go anywhere together. And this feeling would have intensified. And newer symptoms would manifest themselves even without that.
It is important for you to know that the symptoms of an autistic person may be decreased with constant and professional development work – in some cases these symptoms may not even appear.