I awoke to the sound of my phone ringing for the fourth time. I'm not necessarily a morning person so ever since I started working as a 'substitute teacher' it has always been a challenge to actually answer the phone instead of hanging up. Thankfully, after a few years of early morning calls, from the hours of 6am until 9am, my boss and coworkers started penciling in the days they knew they would be away, and for about a year I had a so called 'temporary substitute position,' which allowed me to be a payroll and have a planned schedule. I, however, haven't been working for quite some time, passing my days instead as 'look I'm studying something' and 'what was that dear, I mean, boss.' In other words working a little for my husband's business and studying on my own. However, still being on the calling list of 'substitutes', I dragged myself out of bed, into the shower, and out the door, in a matter of 20 mins. Since the phone rang at 7:08am and I was supposed to be at work 7:30 am. Remarkable, the day care being only five minutes from my home, I made it in time. Upon my arrival, I was surprised to find that I had actually never worked at this specific daycare. The teacher that I would be working with introduced herself and the children, including one that she quitely told me was 'In his own world', which usually means some form of autism. I said hi to everyone and walked up to the boy whom the teacher had pointed out, knelt down and tried to find eye contact, he ran the other way. Since the children are between the ages of 3 and 5, I was instantly bombarded with questions and numerous requests from all the others, and the morning passed smoothly with lots of games, books, and imprisonments from the always successful police and superheroes. I tried, unsuccessfully, several times throughout the morning to find a chance to receive some sort of contact from the little boy that neither spoke nor played nor reacted to anyone, besides the other teacher, who made a constant effort to engage him in some sort of play time. Outside, I had a chance to ask the teacher a few questions about him and she told me a few facts. His family came to Sweden a year and a half ago, he is four years old and speaks only a little of his native language and while he can say a few Swedish words, he seems to understand only about quarter of the things they tell him and responds to only a few specific words. Though, she pointed out that he has taken huge steps in the past half of a year he has been with them. She suggested that I swung him in the swings since that seemed to calm him and would give her a chance to spend some time with the other children. I pushed and smiled making sure he knew I enjoyed the chance to get to know him. Inside I helped him take off his shoes and wash his hands, but I was not allowed to come too close.
After my break, I came back to find him sitting in the couch, with tears in his eyes, listening to a cd. The teacher explained that he had had a tantrum and the best way to calm him down was to allow him time alone with music. I then went to find all the other children, spread out in the different rooms playing with one another. After eating a few pieces of plastic cake, helping build a tower, and breaking up two princesses from fighting over a baby doll. I sat next to him on the couch and opened a book. He looked at me a bit skeptical, but when I asked him if he wanted to look with me, he turned his eyes on the book. We looked through the book at record speed and he soon slammed it shut, but right before he did, he gave me eye contact!
The afternoon included lots of normal day care things, but I did have a chance to join him in small ways. Driving a car past his car, which made him instantly stop driving his car, stopping the beads along the abacus he was playing with, and just trying to make him know I was there. About an hour before I was to leave. I was sitting at the table with four others playing with play dough, making the all time favorite snail, when he climbed up and sat next to me. I gave him a chunk of the play dough and after I rolled it out, he started cutting it with a plastic knife. While I was busy with the others around me, I noticed that he had stuffed a large piece of play dough in his mouth, and when I turned to observe he was spitting it out with a look of surprise and disgust. I started laughing and tried to help him get the rest out. My attention was then called to by one of the boys wanting me to make a snake, and I was about to start when I felt a head against my shoulder. He had purposely leaned against me and seemed content to let his head rest a minute there. My heart started beating faster and I felt the joy of a hard earned reward, so he did acknowledge my efforts, and this seemed to be his first step of trust towards me. I kissed his little head and that made him instantly retract, but I could tell he didn't mind too much. The day ended and I walked home with an arm full of pictures and paintings from many loving children, several that truly made my day shine, but the memory that lingered and will lingerer for a long time was subtle, but oh so meaningful, lean from a little boy that stepped out of his 'own World' to let me know that my attempts hadn't gone unnoticed.