Nayama Mielle Lima, from Brazil, decided to become an au pair after graduating college with a degree in social sciences. She wanted to travel, meet new people, experience a new culture and improve her English. All this led her to CHI.
Her first host family wasn’t a perfect match, so she joined the Wilkinson family and started taking care of their two children, Oliver and Elias.
Nayama was with her host family when one of her host children was diagnosed with autism. Despite Nayama not having much experience with special needs children, she was open to help the young boy in her host family.
“In the beginning, for everyone, everything was new, unexpected… His special daily life also became my special daily life. It seemed that my life was all around his life. I remember considering a rematch, but I already loved him so much that I also didn’t want to leave.”
Nayama started working on a plan with her host family. She took courses recommended on how best to help her host sibling. They attended workshops and talked to specialists and other parents. “I began to better understand the reasons why he had certain behaviors and I learned to deal with them. I started to help his development in many areas, little things like trying to have him put on his own tennis shoes, take the plate off the table, throw things in the trash can, put toys away, and socialize with other people and children.”
While these tasks seem small, they were big to him and watching him do them on his own brought Nayama a great deal of happiness. He went from avoiding eye contact and running away to engaging, giving hugs, smiles and wanting to be close. “He still doesn’t speak, but I always know what he wants. And he always knows when I’m sad. He takes care of me too. He’s definitely one of my best friends I’ve ever made here. “
Taking care of a child with special needs took Nayama out of her comfort zone. At first, she was afraid of the unknown, of failing, of having to give up. But she learned and gained so much – things she could never learn from books.
When her time as an au pair ends, Nayama plans to continue working in childcare and wants to specialize in working with autistic children. Her experience as an au pair has brought her courage, persistence, patience and love to the forefront!