A Labyrinth Leader

Standing Bear Park, Ponca City, OK

Standing Bear Park Labyrinth

While visiting a local second grade classroom I met a young boy who suffered with a form of autism. He was withdrawn, frightened, and needed a personal teaching assistant to function in the classroom. At the end of my visit each student had their picture taken with me for their scrapbook. He couldn’t participate because the flash over stimulated him. I was told that was just one of many instances where his special needs kept him from being part of class activities.

The following week the same class visited the park on a field trip. From the time the class got off the bus this boy was asking about visiting the ‘maze’. Throughout the time we spent in the educational part of the park he continued to talk to his assistant about the ‘maze’.

When we got to the labyrinth I explained to the class how it was different from the popular ‘corn maze’ they had visited earlier and suggested that we all hold hands and make a chain walking to the center. That’s when I learned that he was also terrified to be touched so his assistant held hands with the last student in the chain and the boy held her hand, becoming the very last in the group. Off we went, me in the lead and twenty-three second graders following behind. We reached the center and coiled ourselves tightly so we could all fit on the four interlocking circles at the middle of the labyrinth. How fitting that these four circles represent community.

Now we had to figure out how to get back to the beginning of the winding path. To all of our surprise, this little boy who kept himself so separate from the rest of the world was absolutely sparkling as he raised his hand and said “I’ll lead.” So off we went again, but this time with him pulling eagerly on his assistant’s hand, and all of his classmates following happily behind. I was glad to be bringing up the rear. It made it easier to hide the tears that were welling up in my eyes as I watched this child who spent most of his time locked in a world we couldn’t enter, not only being truly a part of his class but being their leader.