This Thursday was the hardest day of volunteering yet. I have had a very busy and long week going to both places to volunteer, waiting really long for extremely crowed buses, long Chinese classes, and studying after it all. So I was particularly exhausted on Thursday. My brain just would not and could not comprehend Chinese that day. At home I usually reach a block in my Chinese every few months. Since I am forced to use it all the time in China, I have reached a block every week. I know that it will pass after a day or two and when it does I am ten times better. So I look forward to the language block... but when it happens on a day when I am extremely tired, it is not a great combination.
On Thursday I helped out in the Autistic School’s art class. This class was more like “playtime” where the children could work with puzzles, cut shapes, trace, etc. A parent/grandparent was with their child so that made it a little more difficult. First I spent time with a girl who is 3 years old. She is so cute and extremely bright for a 3 year old! Her mother did not really think so, though. The girl’s mother was constantly yelling at her because she could not put a badly made puzzle together correctly. At one point, even the mother put some pieces together wrong!! How do you expect a little 3 year old child with autism to do it correctly then? She was also yelled at because she could not use the scissors correctly while cutting paper shapes. I honestly think that they should not be holding scissors at 3 years old. Besides, her hands were almost too tiny to hold them! The mother had no patience at all. There is just so many expectations from some Chinese parents.
That was nothing compared to what I saw next. All of a sudden out of no where, I heard really loud yelling and hitting noises. I looked over and saw a grandmother slapping her grandson on the head, face, and pinching him really hard because he could not trace shapes PEFECTLY. He could follow the lines but not PERFECTLY. I was so angry. This boy is 6 years old and has a severe case of autism. He cannot speak at all and did not even understand why his grandma was hitting him! All he could do was cry. I immediately had to help him. I grabbed a chair to sit beside them both. His grandmother was holding his hand so tightly and tracing the shapes for him (what a way to teach, huh). Since I sat down next to them, the boy was distracted and turned his head to look and smile at me. When he looked over, she immediately slapped his face and held his head down towards the tracing paper. It was so rude! I decided to distract the grandmother a little bit and asked her how old he was, what his name was, and then I began to help him trace the shapes myself by slightly directing his hand movement. He actually traced them really well! I made sure to compliment him the entire way through. She finally walked away angrily to watch from a distance. A few minutes later, another member of his family came to sit beside us and told him that if he traced it badly then his grandma would hit him...literally. This family member also told me that he was really sick the day before so that is why he was not tracing so well. She was almost apologizing to me for his “bad” tracing. All of this is being said in Chinese and I was trying so hard not to look completely shocked. All the while, the boy just wanted to be hugged and comforted. It was one of the hardest things I’ve seen during my volunteering.
Well that was depressing... how about something a little happier?