Saturday, February 12, 2011

Being Human

When I visit my autistic music students I am always struck by how many different ways it is possible to be human. They are officially described as low functioning. None of our gang can memorise telephone directories. Most of them are unable to speak. I find my time with them invariably refreshing because it is such a stripped down version of communication between human beings. We always start with an improvised story directed at each student, sung over an open strung guitar, which is the only kind I can play!

There is nothing that beats that moment when they start to grin as they have understood my dreadful French accent, since they are usually funny stories. I was inspired this week, and the circus came to our school. They woke up and found a big top in the courtyard full of clowns. The boy who only says oui saved the world by luring an escaped lion back into his cage with hamburgers from the kitchen. The girl who leaks music was a tight rope walker and pirouetted on the high wire in a tutu. The boy who dribbles a lot (erstwhile the boy who likes microphones) was the ringmaster with a big whip cracking at a line of beautiful white Arabian ponies. We laughed, and we laughed. And then they disappeared back into their own strange worlds again. And I went back to mine.


Zhoen said...

Laughter is a very important measure of humanity, whatever world one lives in.

Rosie said...

Z They are rather like emotional sponges. If I play the music at an upbeat tempo, they become excited, and they also are calmed when I slow the music down. This is not difficult to understand. But they also reacted very strongly to a performance of a soul song that I like a lot and so sang with lots of English. To say that autistic people have no emotional intelligence is simplifying something very complex. I learn somlething new about both myself and them every week. I will stop before this becomes another post...

tristan said...

hurrah !
hurrah !
Hurrah !

Amy said...

Beautiful images, Rosie. You must really inspire them with your imagination. I love how your students picture themselves as so resourceful and capable - that for sure must help build their confidence.

Anne said...

I am sure the pictures you paint with them in song and laughter abide in their world somewhere after the show is over. What a wonderful thing it is you do with these children.

Lucy said...

You are clever! I enjoyed all these circus scenes too.

tristan said...

back again because i loved that phrase "how many different ways its possible to be human"

expatbound said...


My other half and myself are planning a move out of the United States in the next year or so. For several years we have talked ourselves into and out of this movie, but recent political and societal changes are converging to make life untenable for us here.

I don't want to get too political right at the outset, but the States rather severe rightward drift as our nation's middle class is being destroyed has led us to the decision that it's time to go.

A few quick background notes: We are approximately fifty years old (no kids) and a net worth of about half a million dollars, including our house. I work in the human services field, and continue to pursue a career in filmmaking and my other half is a trained librarian with a huge interest in sustainable agriculture. We are both considering teaching English as a second language (teasol) as well.

It should also be noted that I hold dual US and Irish citizenship. Also, just another minor note, our french is rudimentary at best, but we plan on correction that as we move forward.

At this time we have narrowed our chooses to Ireland and Brittany with the south of Spain and Central America a little further down the table. Ireland is well understood, as we have spent a great deal of time there, so we are planning a visit to Brittany this fall.

Our goal during the two week stay is to learn as much as we can about the region and see if it would in fact be a good fit for us. In advance of the trip, we would like to develop a relationship with some people who can advise us on issues such as were to buy property, legal and visa problems and the dozens of other issues that will rise up to meet us when we settle.

So, if there is anyone (ideally someone with a Gite to rent)who would like take us under the old wing, it would be a huge help to us as we prepare for the trip as well as to meet with us on the ground (the drinks are on us) it would be a huge help. To sum up, I guess we are looking for mentors to help us achieve a soft landing.

Please feel free to respond at this email address:, also feel free to pass this onto anyone willing and able to help.

Frank O'Neil
Vermont, USA

Rosie said...

hi expat...mmm mentors are a bit thin on the ground round here. Everyone is busy hacking through the undergrowth with their own machete. I dont have any gites, and neither do I know any gite owners...but the internet is good for that sort of thing, isnt it.
Having said that, I would be only too pleased to be bought a drink by anyone considering moving here so that I can tell them dire off-putting ex patriot stories. That way you will get a real picture instead of the dream that is so often sold by interested parties, and make your decision based on facts!