By Ashley Kaminoff, a member of the SkillCorps® Nanchang, China July 2018 team
“Rate your comfortability with being in a room where no one speaks your language”, the SkillCorps orientation book read; I marked this question as a 1, within my comfort zone. I am from New York, I thought, I am exposed to so many people, cultures, and languages every day. I am a pretty flexible person, being in a room where no one speaks my language will be completely in my comfort zone.
Three days later I sit in the Huicong Center for Autism, in Nanchang, China, my stomach is in a knot. My senses are in overdrive with unfamiliar sounds and sights while I solely rely on my translator to relay what I hear and say. This was the first time in my life that I could not listen and speak for myself. There were feelings of frustration, anxiety, and overall confusion rushing through me. As the day passed, I learned to rely on environmental reasoning and my understanding of behavior to decipher many actions around me and I grew more comfortable utilizing my translator.
That night I was exhausted. As I lay down to sleep, I reflected on the many experiences I had that day. It hit me, this is why I am here! Those children at the Huicong Center for Autism that I had been observing all day felt the same confusion I had. They needed to be heard but had no way to communicate, they needed to understand but did not have the skills to grasp what was requested of them, they needed a translator to help them access their environment. I am here, outside of my comfort zone, to give these teachers the gift of being able to unlock a whole world for these children. I am more eager than ever to share my knowledge of advocacy, teaching, and applied behavior analysis to help these teachers become the best translators they can be.