Chantana Makien
Volunteer, 2012

In 2009, I lost my voice after thyroid cancer surgery, because of bilateral vocal cord paralysis. I found considerable difficulty talking and communicating.  By comparison to the challenges faced by children with Autism, though, my difficulties were small.  When, after intensive speech and breathing training, my voice came back, I decided that I wanted to explore a career helping  for children with special needs. .

In July 2012, I volunteered in ELG’s summer program for Chinese children with autism. The first time I saw children with autism, I had many feelings; a mixture of sadness, curiosity, nervousness and happiness that left me overwhelmed.   In a personal and vivid way, I felt the unfairness of the world.  After working with autistic children for a couple weeks, I was struck by a more important feeling; that it is so easy and so important to love them.

One day in the cafeteria, a child that taught me something surprising as I was teaching him to ask for food.  I put my ear near to his face, and very suddenly, he kissed me.  Right on the cheek; it was, powerful, wonderful.  It made my day!

Of course, I benefited from ELG’s guidance in other ways.  I learned some sensory integration techniques and  helped one boy with a sensory overload issue to relax, simply by carefully pressure  to his shoulder and knee joints. A Physical Therapist taught me how to do this.

I am forever grateful to the people at ELG: grateful for their expertise and professionalism, of course, but even more for the sense of belonging and family that empowered me. The meaningful  work I did at ELG has benefited me  in ways I could not have anticipated.  At the end of the summer, I enrolled at ECNU to earn a Masters Degree in Special Education.

ELG’s vision and dedication served to heal me and raise me up.  The warmth and gentleness that defines this place are truly special, and are reflected in the results they achieve.

To parents who are concerned about their children’s special learning needs: everybody can learn.  ELG understands this and lives it.