A LESSON LEARNED

smaller autistic exercise picture

As a physician, it had always been my job to TEACH and EDUCATE my patients about their health and the various requirements needed to restore and maintain it. I loved my job and took the responsibility associated with it very seriously. When I wasn’t with patients, I was commonly found researching various health topics. I would look for the latest information that offered better diagnosing and treatment methods. I believed scientific analytical research held the answers I was looking for if I searched hard enough.

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Although I value research and continue to use this method to search for answers, TODAY’S circumstances placed me in the role of PUPIL. I was provided the opportunity to LEARN from my “TEACHER” a new HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE ON JOYFUL  LIVING. My “TEACHER” didn’t even realize he was educating me. It was a lesson I learned through OBSERVATION rather than scientific facts and one I will ALWAYS REMEMBER AND BE THANKFUL FOR.

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As I was exercising, my “TEACHER” arrived at the gym. As the doors automatically opened I could see in his eyes a joyful awareness as he entered a very typical gym environment. My “TEACHER” didn’t view this gym as a means to improving strength, function and cardiovascular conditioning essential for quality health. He entered and simply made inarticulate sounds while smiling and bursting into laughter.

He was well acquainted with the specific arrangement of the exercise equipment yet arbitrarily chose an unconventional order to use them. He didn’t count repetitions and didn’t even adjust the equipment to fit his actual frame, yet achieved exactly what he intended to achieve with each piece of equipment he used. In between exercises he would talk to fellow members and laugh with them.

As far as science and exercise was concerned, my “TEACHER” was basically “wasting his time.” His heart rate never elevated to a level of cardiovascular benefit. The weight he lifted was set inappropriately for muscle conditioning and his erratic training style would clearly produce disappointing results. Noting all of these limitations, my “TEACHER” was excited and truly happy to be in the gym.

My initial response was sympathy. You see, my “TEACHER” (probably between 16-18 years of age) had autism. How sad it must be to live life with this unfortunate challenge. My “TEACHER” would never have the same opportunities the rest of the “non handicapped” world would have.

AND THEN IT STRUCK ME!

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My “unfortunate” handicapped “TEACHER”:

  1. Was joyfully exercising in a manner of his own choosing.

  2. Was in an environment surrounded with people he enjoyed being with.

  3. Was freely able to express himself the way he wanted to.

  4. Freely chose to exercise because he liked all the different machines.

  5. Created joy among the members as they smiled and interacted with him.

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Then I observed the “non handicapped” members working out:

  1. Most wearing headsets preventing interaction

  2. Faces absent of any smiles

  3. The limited sounds I heard from member’s mouths were complaints to staff about trivial matters.

  4. The joy primarily seen on members faces ONLY EXISTED upon EXITING rather than ENTERING the gym.

  5. Worried and concerned faces showing the toll stress has played in many of their lives.

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MY PRECONCEIVED NOTION DEFINING  WHO WAS ACTUALLY HANDICAPPED BECAME UNCLEAR?

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Was it the happy joyful person viewing life from a perspective that focused on simple pleasures or was it the unhappy, unhealthy person that reluctantly came to the gym isolating themselves in a social environment with headsets designed to intentionally limit social interaction? Was it the person that viewed every piece of exercise equipment as an opportunity for fun through sensory stimulation or the person attempting to reduce stress just to function near a coping level aware that tomorrow would likely bring more of the same?

My autistic “TEACHER” shared with me a learning lesson I could never find in peer review journals. He shared with me an EXPERIENCE; not based on acceptable societal standards, but rather emotions arising from the heart. He showed me HIS perspective based on HIS innate desire to enjoy life. How many “non handicapped” people listen to their innate intelligence to satisfy their desires to enjoy life?

I would like to thank my autistic “TEACHER” for THE LEARNING LESSON he provided me, his humble PUPIL. He broadened my ability to see the world from his exciting perspective;  a perspective I would not have previously been able to see and understand because of my “non handicapped” handicap!

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32 comments

  1. Kallmann.C · · Reply

    Thanks Dr.Jonathan for sharing with us such valuable life lesson that has been overlooked and taken granted for by most of us, the “non-handicapped”. Looking foward for more updates! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Although I shared the story, the true “THANKS” belongs to the autistic “TEACHER.” Without his innate perspective and clarity is sharing a different reality, I would have remained naive to his worldly vision. He has added great VALUE to my life.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Inspiring post. All of us need to learn from your teacher. As you stated, makes us wonder who truly is handicapped.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This lesson taught me about the limitations society imposes on itself. We believe we “non handicapped” people see the world from the “TRUE” perspective. If this “true” perspective is a leading cause of depression and other diseases, maybe its time to open our minds to a new reality.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You are doing a very noble task. People like you are a rare find. The world has shrunk to a point where making money is everything to the professionals. You stand out as someone who takes life more seriously than other material gains. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your kind words. In reality, my 20+ years in practice exposed me to the full spectrum from joy to misery. Those appreciating the value that life offered seemed to live more fulfilling lives. Material possessions only produced SHORT TERM gratification without satisfying the LONG TERM needs of PURPOSE and PASSION. This became quite the learning lesson. I began seeing greater VALUE in “purchasing” EXPERIENCES that could last a lifetime. These experiences helped me grow as a person and provided a pathway to achieving REAL HAPPINESS.

      I am thankful for all the lessons I’ve experienced. My hope is to share this perspective with other people and to help them find the path they search for to achieve the goals they desire.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You tell me there is still hope in the world. Good day. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah true wisdom here!
    I’ve found very much the same thing in my interactions with the disabled during my volunteer work. We have so much to learn from them, especially in this modern world. It says a lot of you as not only a doctor but a human being that you saw the lesson. Respect! (For you and your teacher)..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Claire. We are all born with an ability to SEE with expanding vision (even the blind) if we choose to do so. Those willing to see life from these new perspectives open themselves to potential opportunities that would have remained hidden otherwise. I know you understand this better than many from the volunteer work you have done. It’s a real blessing to share in these experiences.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Excellent and inspiring story, Jonathan! Thanks for sharing it. I have an uncle with Down’s syndrome. I am amazed at the lessons in love and joy I have learned from him over the years.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nice to see so many readers have had similar positive experiences with people categorized as “challenged.”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Best post ever! If I even tried to begin to tell you…to express anything to you right now I’m afraid all I would do is gush and ramble so I will just leave it at Best post ever! You just made my heart so happiee is all!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So glad this made a positive impact on you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was a specialized foster parent for children with special needs for a few years and the love I was able to witness will stay with me always! Just the thought of how this young man could teach you, show you and make you feel the way you described here well Im not surprised because I’ve had the same lessons but I am so touched and impressed by you. You are so open to learn and accept these things that some people might walk away from not better for it…you let things soak into you and i love that!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. For me it required onion peeling. I started with science and cold facts and outcomes. As the years passed and I began to see that 1+1+1 did not equal 3, I decided I might being missing some pieces of the puzzle. As I began developing a new comprehensive approach to health, I began to see amazing results. I still did not have all the answers, but I was certainly on the ride path.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Sure seems like you are! Im glad to be here with you! You make this whole blogging thing a better place to be! 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Love this! That young man is living his life to the fullest. How many of us can say that?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. What a wonderful story!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Reality often makes a wonderful story. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Advocate for Mental and Invisible Illnesses and commented:
    This is worth reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Isn’t it wonderful that the joy one can experience in such a different way that others….I was at the gym today and everyone I looked at had headsets on and was in there own world….I go to the gym to exercise, but have found music to be distracting to me…I walked in front of a young man inadvertently today, I said, oh I am sorry…but he didn’t hear me, he had is ears plugged…so I touched his arm and said sorry, he nearly jumped out of his skin…I understand what your talking about when you say no one interacts with one another….kinda sad…but on that note I don’t go there to converse with others….just focus and work out….but happy your teacher was enjoying his time in the gym….kat

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am not a talker at the gym, but I don’t wear ear buds while lifting weights. I’m not trying to convince anyone to do things differently than they do; it was merely an observation. Thought it would be nicer to see more smiling faces reflecting attitudes and emotions toward life and people.

      Like

      1. I agree….but to each there own….I find being in my own thoughts at the gym is where it is at for me…I really like to focus on the movements and muscles….but how nice it was for him to enjoy himself and all those around him….makes my heart smile….

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you Jonathan. This post is beautiful and truly has brought tears to my eyes. The handicapped/challenged always have so much to offer and so often is overlooked by the non handicapped/challenged person. You are a wonderful man to acknowledge ‘your teacher’ as so many would not.
    I have a severely mentally handicapped daughter, she suffered a massive seizure at 3 1/2 years of age and her heart stopped. Doctors battled to bring her back to life were at the point of ‘calling it’, but continued and eventually got a faint heartbeat…long story, but ever since then has suffered uncontrolled seizures of all forms. She lost all her speech…. No one could say what her future held, it all was unknown, countless forms of all types of therapy, sadly no joy. Bottom line she is mentally handicapped now. She is this beautiful 28 year old now, who looks like a child. Her greatest joys are playing in her sandpit and eating (healthy foods) I see so much beauty in her, even on her bad days, and there is not a day that goes by that she does not give me joy. Sadly I don’t know if she is happy as she seldom shows emotion. Sorry, I have gone off topic here. but thank you for being so caring 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You haven’t gone off topic at all. You have brought more emotion and reality to the meaning of this post. You live what I simply experienced for an hour and a half. I always use the word BALANCE to describe GOOD HEALTH. You have greater opportunities to understand the meaning of this word because of your exceptional daughter. You are also gifted with greater perception as a result of being her mother.
      I appreciate you sharing your story and showing all of us just how precious EVERY LIFE IS!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Well done again! Those with more challenges usually have an amazing ‘talent’ to share with others. A UK blogger mentioned “Shine” the movie the other day, another worthy lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post! It is so easy today for us to look past our own lives while we try to “get somewhere”. That your TEACHER’s autism in a way freed him from these shackles and allowed him to simply enjoy the moment is a true lesson for all of us. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It taught me to realize our preconceived thinking LIMITS our ability to perceive the world in a different LIGHT. It opens a part of life I never knew existed.

      Like

  14. We always have an opportunity to learn from others. It is great that you take ever opportunity to learn from others

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just learning to see more in life than meets the eye. It’s a wonderful learning experience.

      Liked by 1 person

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