It was early May of 2022 of my freshman year. I remember scrolling through a document that my high school had shared with all students that contained a lengthy list of different volunteering opportunities in the Bay Area. I was looking to volunteer in something that I was genuinely interested in, not just for the sake of volunteering somewhere. And then I read about Pragnya in that document.
It was the perfect opportunity for me. I had a keen interest in neuroscience, as I loved how it combined broad categories like biological science and psychology. Plus, the study of the brain and how it worked fascinated me. Just the thought (of how different and unique everyone’s brains are) excited me.
So when I saw that Pragnya was a program where I got to tutor and play with neurodiverse children, I knew that I would enjoy volunteering there. When I went for my first in-person enrichment session, I was amazed at how close-knit the Pragnya community was. Everyone, from the organizers to neurodiverse kids to the teen allies to the parents, was very supportive and appreciative of each other.
What I observed at Pragnya is that these neurodiverse individuals are not different; instead, they see this world from a different perspective.
But now on to my real experience of working with the kids: I was initally clueless. Having never worked with neurodiverse individuals before, I was confused as to how exactly I was supposed to get them to learn. What if they’re not interested in the learning? What if they want to talk about something else, or if they want to leave?
I eventually realized after a few more sessions that the beauty about neurodiverse individuals lies in the uniqueness of their thoughts. What I observed at Pragnya is that these neurodiverse individuals are not different; instead, they see this world from a different perspective.
While it may be important for the kids to complete their work, what was more important was getting to know each other and making them feel comfortable. Basically, building a bond was the most significant aspect of interacting with them. Being a novice, I initially had a hard time truly connecting with them. But with the help of a few tips from the Pragnya team and my parents, finally, I did it! I eventually made a connection with one of the kids. I felt so proud and happy.
Getting to know them has been a true pleasure, and they would always bring out a smile on my face. I love being their friend, but what I love more is how much they have taught me in just the last few weeks. I started volunteering at Pragnya with the intention that it would expand my horizons when it comes to learning about neurodiversity. But I also learned about the true value of empathy. The progress I have made with the kids so far would not have been possible if I didn’t learn to place myself in their shoes to try to understand how they feel. Just attending a few sessions has taught me how smart, funny, and capable they are. I can’t wait to see what else I will learn and explore as a Pragnya ally!