The girl who was tied up in a corner of the room

Class sizes aren’t only an issue in the UK.

Here I am in Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission in India, my first day…one large class, certainly too large for the one teacher to deal with alone.

That’s where I had come in. I was a helper.

The girls were all different ages and had all kinds of abilities, but all had one thing in common… they all attended this, the “Special” school.

One girl, in particular, stood out to me.

When I arrived, she was tied to a chair and put in a corner of the room out of the way. That’s special, in an horrific way.

What made her different? What made her unacceptable, even here?

I had been worried about how I would cope working in poor conditions, but how did this girl manage to live on a daily basis like this, totally ‘outcaste’?

Her uniform had holes in and she had her shoes on the wrong feet.

I remember her big eyes staring at me, she was panicked by the new face in the room. Her autism didn’t allow for anything that wasn’t part of her routine. Something drew me to her.

Over the coming weeks I found out that because of her condition, she had been rejected by her family, which couldn’t cope with her. She loved running around, especially when it was time for lessons.

This was my challenge, how to transform her from being a child who was used to restraint to a place where she might feel able to run around, to express her freedom in a way that any young girl might wish to do.

It started with a tambourine. The little girl didn’t know what to make of it. She’d watched the others shake and hit one before, but hadn’t done it herself. Her big eyes just stared at it in hope, in expectation, in excitement.

The tambourine was new, something else out of her routine, but it would soon become a part of it and she would understand what to do with it.

The next step was to put her with a group where she would be involved in daily learning activities.

She had to learn slowly and steadily but she was going to learn. I was determined.

The group I was with had 8 girls in it, all needing attention every second. I couldn’t give it to them – I did my best – but I felt that they could give it to each other.

The girl tied up in the corner had become part of the group, slowly integrating herself into a community. She grew in trust, and the others liked her.

She was missed when she wasn’t there.

We gave her freedom. We untied her and we sat her at the table to join in. The panic in her eyes subsided hour by hour, day by day, week by week, as we slipped her into the new routine of being with people and belonging.

During the small time I was there, the girl who used to be tied up in the corner learnt things that we would not even think she would have to learn.

She learnt to hold things without having to chew them, not part of the UK school curriculum! She learnt to understand when it was her turn to do things, such as recognise some matching pictures.

After five months, she even started to speak.

But the biggest change that I saw wasn’t related only to the breakdown of isolation I saw in her. I was beginning to see the same change in myself.

In using me to transform another life, God was transforming me.