By: Emma Schnell

During our SkillCorps orientation, we participated in an activity where we answered open-ended questions with single words. Who are you? What do you want? Where do you come from? 

The last one was challenging. For me, the first and only word that came to my mind was “rut.” I was coming from a rut. 

I know that I love this field and working with individuals with autism, but for many reasons I just felt that I was at a stale point in my career. “Rut” was the best way to describe how I was feeling. 

The first week at SOREM flew by. There was a lot to see, a lot of relationships to build, and a ton to try and accomplish. With the SkillCorps team in constant motion, I felt disconnected and still very much in that “rut” state of mind. Only once I had a special conversation with one of the teachers at SOREM did I start to find the reset I was searching for. 

On this particular day, we were instructed to talk to the teachers of SOREM, ask them questions, listen to their concerns, and try to get to know them better. I approached a room I had not yet visited. The teacher and I started off our discussion covering all things clinically-related. Toward the end of our conversation, though, she shifted our focus and offered some personal information that she seemed to have been waiting to share with someone. 

She told me she had lost her husband recently and that SOREM was her saving grace. I was so taken aback that this woman wanted to share this with me. I asked some more questions, digging deeper as to why she felt so safe and happy at SOREM. Her answer was simple: “These people are my family.” 

After a moment of taking in this heavy conversation, she told me that she could have taught in any public school. She chose to work with the students at SOREM because they are “natural learners.” She explained that individuals with autism are who they are, and they never try to hide that. They’re the most natural people she knows. 

This conversation gave me the reset that I needed. I felt a connection with this teacher, compassion for her situation, and an overwhelming shared loved for what we do. I feel so lucky to have my own group of “natural learners” back home.