Just a meaningless voice till I start listening

Sometime in the last week I had the fortune (or misfortune, as the real subject teacher would say) to observe an English class of Level II students, doing a brainstorming session with their teacher. This is a requirement for all third year students in the SHBIE, so they could go through their fourth year.

Anyway, sure the class was full of the typical Level II student: unmotivated, academically weak, forgetful, noisy, low attention span and dyslexic or possess one or other forms of learning disorders and the teacher is the typical Level II teacher: patient, repetitive, forceful, persistent and eventually very tired.

But in all the hustle and bustle of this class, one student, a fair girl with a sweet little face and deep dark eyes, however, caught my attention. It wasn’t because she was the one wearing the cleanest tunic, or the fact that she was the prettiest. It was the fact that while the rest of the class was paying attention, and participating in the class discussion, she was totally uninterested.  She seemed to be really distant from her friends, her peers. It was as if, she was alone in this world, and content to be so.

Throughout the one-hour lesson, she was engrossed in her own activities, or rather, activity, which involved shredding a piece of white A4 paper with the utmost precision, in the slowest manner. She tears it into small irregular strips, sometimes triangles, from up to down. From up to down. She made it her business to be regular, three long strips followed by one triangle. Three long strips and one triangle, repeatedly, again and again, until exactly when the bell rang, there was no more paper.

There was something about the girl, and there was something about her precision and her distance that enthralled me. I studied her moves, it was as if she knew that her actions will take exactly one hour. But how does she know? Throughout the whole lesson, not even once did she glanced to the wall clock.

It was her eyes that captivated me the most. She didn’t once even looked at me, but I sense a familiar feeling. I recognised her intense longing. She was longing for something. Love? Maybe. Friends? Maybe. But it was certain that I will, never ever, totally comprehend, nor am I ever going to find out.

Later outside the classroom, the teacher who was teaching said,

“I know you were looking at the girl in the corner”

..and that’s when I learnt that she is autistic.

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7 Comments

  1. true, love this post. and i knew the moment when you were describing her that she’s autistic.. just learned about it last semester.. and oh, must we observe a level 2 class?

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  2. I’ve learnt alot abt autistic children (because I once applied for a job at an Autism School), and they are in their own little world – with little or no interest in socialising. But that does not mean they are any less brilliant than a normal kid. In fact they can be brighter than any of them.

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  3. Sha, yeap, some are definitely smarter if given the opportunity, support and guidance. Some geniuses we know today are geniuses, e.g. Tesla! They are amazing.

    However, some are not academically inclined, like they have interests elsewhere (e.g., sports, arts, etc), which as you can imagine makes them very difficult to teach at school. But since they still need some skills (counting, writing, reading, etc) so they can survive in the real world, they get placed in Level 2 classes.

    Level 2 classes accommodate students who have difficulty learning and may need a substantial amount of effort, attention and resources than the average student.

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