David

            “Jess, are you sure you can handle this? David needs extra help. I think you have the patience to work with him.” In fifth grade at my middle school, every student gets their own kindergarten “buddy”. Mine was David. I can still hear my teacher, Ms. Wasik, repeating those lines I once thought insignificant over and over again in my head. Unlike all the other kids, David had a fairly severe form of autism. I was given the daunting and awe-inspiring task of reading and socializing with him. To be sure, this was much more than most fifth graders have to handle on a daily basis.

Autism is a disorder that affects the way a person interacts with others and thinks about their relationships to others. Never really understanding what autism was as a child, I approached this job with typical fifth-grade fervor. He was one of the quietest, timid, and reserved boys I had met, but behind his wall of emotion he was crafty, canny, and above all clever. I had never met anyone like him before, but I faced the task of mentoring him head first.

Our friendship started off slow, but I quickly gained David’s trust and he rapidly opened up to me. We began with simple sketches of our family, involving very little communication. We leapt ahead in a few weeks to reading stories and solving math problems together, tasks that seem easy to any normal kindergartener but were difficult to him. David no longer was the shy little boy I had first met at the beginning of the year. Over the next few months and in that one hour a week turned from an hour I disliked and despised to a time I treasured and cherished. We both changed in some very unanticipated, but welcome ways.
 
Even though seven years have passed, I can still recall the time David and I spent together perfectly, as I always find myself thinking back to David and his fearless determination. I am glad to say I affected someone’s life like I did that year, but his effect on me was even stronger. I learned how to stay patient even in tough situations, never give up, and that it is often good to slow things down. But, most importantly David taught me that if something does not come easily to you, just keep on trying; never give up. Nothing came easily to David. He had to work hard to communicate and interact with his peers who were not always well mannered and understanding individuals.

Whenever faced with a daunting task, I think back to my time with David. If he could overcome all the difficult obstacles autism threw at him, then I can easily overcome anything put in my path. The lessons of determination I learned back in fifth grade are now ingrained within me, and whether in school, at work, or on the soccer field, I approach each situation head first and with dedication and effort. Aspiring to be like David, even when I am unsure of what I am facing, I still give any task my full effort. Foreign and unusual situations have been of little difficulty to me since the time I spent with my kindergarten buddy. Not everything in life is easy, and I like to work hard for what I want. I feel like I can handle anything anyone puts in front of me nowadays. Furthermore, I know that I want to help and be inspired by more challenges and people like David. The lessons he taught me were invaluable and I feel that I have a duty to share that with others.





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