Child with Autism
This is Bao. Bao is a child with Autism. He lives in a care center because his behavior is sporadic and his mother can no longer manage him.
Bao often refuses to talk to people. Instead, he will pound his fists on tables, scream, or cover his ears. Occasionally, when Bao is not getting his way, he will hit himself or his peers. He has no real friends and does not like to give or receive affection. He spends most of his time alone, looking out the window.
Today, Bao is struggling because his head hurts and he does not know how to tell his caretakers. Nobody knows that Bao often gets headaches because he isn’t able to tell them. The stress of being unable to tell them means that the headaches hurt worse and last longer.
Because of the way Bao’s mind works, he is often uncomfortable. Even something as simple as the tag on his shirt can feel like a thorned vine rubbing across his back. When his caregivers don’t understand him, they sometimes become frustrated and forget to talk to him like a person. Bao hates it when people don’t talk to him like a person, but he understands that he isn’t able to communicate well with them, either.
What Bao doesn’t understand is why his life has to be different from that of other children. Bao watches his peers play together and talk and have fun, but he doesn’t know how to interact the same way. Bao feels very lonely sometimes.
Pretend you are Bao. What if you were in pain and could not tell anyone? What if every day you had to wear clothing that didn’t seem to fit properly, but nobody understood? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt left out or misunderstood? Have you ever been so frustrated you wanted to pound your fists on a table? How must it feel to live that way all the time?
What are some other ways you can relate to Bao? Do you feel like perhaps he withdraws because he is embarrassed to try to interact? How might you help someone like Bao feel more comfortable and included when you meet them? What could we do, as a society, to ensure that Bao and other children like him never feel like they are a burden? What might happen if we, instead, give them tools to flourish?