By Jordan Taylor
All children have a knack for imagining out-of-this-world ideas, saying the unexpected, pushing every button you have and touching your heart in the deepest ways. Throughout my time working with autistic youth as a development trainee at Fraser, my kiddos have taught me very valuable lessons that I believe we, as adults, can all learn from. I compiled a list outlining the five most important things I’ve learned from five year-old kids:
1: Patience is a Virtue:
The very first thing I learned when I started working at Fraser, and something that I continue to learn each day, is that patience is a virtue I wasn’t born with. I have learned to wait 10 looooooong seconds between asking a question and receiving an answer. If you don’t know how weird that may feel, try asking the person next to you how they are and when they respond and ask how you are, wait 10 whole seconds; see how uncomfortable they get. Now imagine that person was crying/kicking/screaming and you again ask them a question, wait 10 seconds and ask again.
“A patient man has great understanding” – Proverbs 14:29
2: Find Peace among Chaos:
At Fraser, we spend 20 minutes, twice a day, in a room that looks like a McDonald’s PlayPlace from when we were kids. You know what I’m talking about…the climbing tower, the slides, and of course, the ball pit. Now, throw in 15, five-to-seven-year-olds, with varying levels of autism and what do you get? A very loud, stressful, and chaotic 20 minutes. Amidst the kids playing tag, pretending to battle Godzilla and running in every direction, I see smiles on every child and hear an abundance of laughter echoing throughout the room. Amongst the chaos and craziness in which we call “Big Gym,” I find complete joy and peace in the happiness of these kids. Each day I leave work, I do my best to remind myself that in this crazy thing we call life, there will be times when we run into chaos. Whether it be a hectic workweek, finals, the drive home in traffic--whatever it may be, find peace within it and you will easily find joy.
3: It’s the “little” things:
Along with finding and appreciating peace of mind, I have begun to discover the joy in the “little," everyday things. We get so hung up on the little things in life, like traffic and the weather that we should learn to appreciate them as well. I find myself in pure delight when my kiddo says please and thank you. Manners are something we have completely forgotten about as a society. So now I make it a point to hold open doors for people, give compliments, and simply smile at people walking down the street. I was close to tears when another friend reached out for a hug and told me “hugs make my feelings happy!” I never knew how much a simple hug, kiss, or “I love you” text from my boyfriend could make my feelings happy too, so I do what I can to share my love and appreciation with him and for that matter, all of my family and friends! If we can take time to complain about the little things, we can also find time to be grateful for them.
4: Sometimes you just need a hug, break, deep breaths or all of the above:
And that’s ok! We all have had days where we seriously feel like we just can’t go on—at least not without a hug, and maybe a glass (ok, a bottle) of wine! At Fraser, everyday we teach our kids how to cope with their feelings, big or small. If they are feeling angry or sad, we make it clear to them that they have a choice—they don’t have to remain upset! They can take a break, receive a hug, go for a walk, whatever they may find to be motivating and calming. As teachers, we’re also told that whenever we feel like we desperately need a break, we should take one. Many of us were raised and conditioned to think that crying or asking for help is a sign of weakness, when in reality it shows strength. When my kiddo reaches out for a hug amid tears there is no way I could turn 'em away. We hug, then count to ten, then rejoin the group. Each time we both find ourselves refreshed and ready to go. So the next time you feel yourself overwhelmed with life, instead of ignoring your feelings or expressing them in a negative way, take some deep breaths. Getet up, and walk away from the situation for a few minutes or ask your partner/parent/friend/child/whomever for a big squeeze, because what many people don’t know is that hugging is proven to measurably reduce stress. So go ahead, hug it out!
5: Have Fun!
Life is a blessing; every single day of every single hour IS. A. BLESSING! Enjoy it, embrace it, and love it and all the people in it.