“Example is not the main thing in influencing other people. It is the only thing.” – Albert Einstein
Examples of ways women in prison have been influenced by others abound – and are often neither pretty nor inspiring. Except to suggest a path to significant change. So when we offered the suggestion to tell of a time one of these incarcerated women writers had positively influenced another person, we were delighted that the range of stories included AA’s moving account of working with, understanding and impacting an autistic child.
She was just 15 and knew what she wanted to do. That she is me. I knew I wanted to teach young children. I had worked at this daycare for two summers now, once a week and vacations during the school year.
I loved my job working as the one-to-one aide with Seamus. He was a wonderful little boy to work with. He had autism and the teachers didn’t really like working with him a lot. They tried to treat him like a baby even though he was five. They made him be in the two-year-old classroom because of his special needs. They put him in diapers and wouldn’t let him play with the others for fear he’d hit them or something worse. I tried to include him whenever I could get away with it. He never hit me and he never hit any one of the other children. The teachers that weren’t the best and would yell or be rough got hit a lot. With me, he’d smile and sometimes squeal out something like ‘drr – drr – drr – doo’. He couldn’t speak other than stuff like that, but I could tell what he wanted.
When we went for walks, they put him in a baby carriage. I hated that and so did he. I was so glad when I went to a different daycare to work and surprisingly, his parents moved him there, too. This daycare was more into including all kids. He got to be in the four-to-six-year-old class. We worked on potty training and no more baby carriage. He walked on the rope the same as the others. He was encouraged to do his best in whatever the other children did. He wasn’t treated like a baby anymore and I was so glad to see how much h grew. He was doing everything I knew he could do and even though he needed a little more help than the others, I knew he was happy. I miss him so much.