When a Nonverbal Child Stopped My Meltdown


I was fresh out of high school, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Just a couple years before, I had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I was also struggling with a phobia of bees. I wanted to get out in the world, but I wasn’t sure how to. I wasn’t ready for college.

My mom found a special program for me which would allow me to try out different possible job positions. I could go to a job that interested me and try it out for a few hours to see if it would be something I wanted to do long-term. One of those positions just happened to be helping staff providing equestrian therapy to children with special needs. And I had no idea how much I was about to learn in such a short amount of time.

I arrived at the facility on a hot summer day, and before I could even take in the beauty of what was going on, I noticed something flying around the doorway to the outside area. It was some kind of bee. I lost all of my focus instantly and began to freak out. I wanted to go home, but I was told that I couldn’t. I felt horrible, trying to pull myself together so that I could try working a little bit, but it was no use, and I ended up having a complete meltdown.

The staff at the facility was amazing. They went out of their way to try to help me. They sat me down, asking what they could do for me. They even told me I didn’t have to work outside, as had originally been planned. Instead, I could help in a session with a child with special needs who would be using the inside ring. Although I was still teary-eyed and my meltdown wasn’t quite over, I agreed to try.

I walked over to the child on the horse. He was somewhere between 8 and 10 years old, and he was nonverbal. But that didn’t stop him from connecting with me. Right away, he looked over and smiled at me. Then, he did something I will never forget.

He wiped a tear from my face.

I couldn’t help it. I had to forget my worries about a silly little bee and smile back. I thanked him and told him not to worry about me, and that I was OK.

And it was true. Because of this child, my meltdown immediately stopped. I was OK again.

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