Dan: Our First Day at the Special Needs School

After working at the migrant workers school, we went to work at a school that was completely different. We drove to a school for special needs. The school is small, but full of kids with various disabilities. We were given a tour of the campus; it was small, much smaller than Yangzhou High School and much smaller than George School. When we were waiting for our classes to start, six deaf kids visited our meeting room. A tall boy sat next to me and started to communicate by writing. He said the usual conversation starters, like Hi, how are you, or how old are you. The conversation was something else. The short writing conversation hit me hard. The exchange of words on paper was something completely different; it almost saddened me because this is one of the only ways this child could communicate with anybody.
We were split into two different groups. My group went into the cafeteria/theater. There were seven kids, all about eight years old. I was paired with a small kid. He looked about five or six but he was eight years old. He was extremely shy, to the point where he would not look at me. It took him a while to crack the smallest smile. After we did a small activity, I decided to take some selfies with him. This made him laugh because I put some filters on him. He was smiling from ear-to-ear. This also made me happy because we got past the language barrier and had fun without speaking Chinese, or very little. The hour-and-a-half flew by very quickly. Time flies when you’re having fun! We then had one of the best lunches ever. The fact that it was so simple made it more appealing. The food consisted of pork belly, a duck leg, seaweed soup, rice, and green beans.
After lunch, we were again split into two groups. The task was to clean the dorms. The boys want to the boys dorm and the girls went to the girls dorm. I had the job of cleaning the windows; it was an easy job. When I was cleaning the dorm room, a small deaf boy came up to me and smiled at me. I signaled back in Chinese sign language that I am his friend, which he responded to with the biggest smile I have ever seen. Then we took the usual selfie. This made me think that this child is normal, except he can’t hear, but that does not stop him from being a happy and fun child. Also while I was mopping, I was asked to have my autograph from a child with Down Syndrome. I felt special because these kids look up to me as their older brother.

After we had the place cleaned, my group went to the playroom. The kids poured into the room, very quickly. The teacher explained the instructions so quickly that I had no idea what she wanted us to do with the kids. There was a ball pit, a few yoga balls, and some other child toys. There was one kid that stuck right by my side the whole hour and a half. He spoke perfect Chinese, but would start to speak gibberish after a while. He called me, “gege,” which means big brother. These kids look up to us, not as teacher, not as a mentor, but as their older brother, part of their family. The kids had so much energy; we were so tired some of us fell asleep in the ball pit. When it was time to go, the kids were very sad, making me very, very sad. This first day was truly a life-changing experience which I will forever cherish.

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