I wanted to follow-up a YEAR to the DAY I posted my blog about how to explain autism to small school-aged children. We are in the thick of it now, and I am so ridiculously involved at her new school already and it is only October. I have been applying a mixture of coconut oil, hydro-cortisone, and some spell work to my face around the clock because the stress is turning my skin into zombie flesh but somehow I am enjoying every minute because I am a Type A/B/Z nutjob with a passion for keeping busy at the expense of even my physical health! WEEEEE!
Scar did, in fact, make it to a school with an inclusion program and she is already thriving. But I am turning my attention to what I have witnessed from elementary school students in regards to Scar’s autism. And I am here to report that all is well. In fact, it is much better than well.
First, in response to myself from last year’s post, I am finished asking questions and I am not grieving nearly as much any more. The missing piece of the puzzle is now tattooed to my neck and there it will remain. I don’t need to know how it got there, how it missed the mark in my child’s brain. It just missed it. And that made her the most marvelous human being I have ever met.
In response to learning differently, I realize that the way schools teach now has changed so much since I went school. And honestly, no matter how much news you watch or what you read, you don’t know changes in how the gears turn until you are actually seeing it and feeling it. What I mean is, you are old (no, just kidding, maybe, no, we are old) and only have so much of your own experience to go on. These teachers are rocking it in all new ways, especially in the inclusion classes and I will applaud that until my hands fall off. Every child, autistic, neurotypical, somewhere in the middle, learns differently. Then they grow into individual adults with certain needs or certain ways in which they move through the world. Human beings are not robots or carbon copies of one another. Our similarities in being human are what make different humans? If that makes sense (it does to me but I am the one who has apparently employed myself as a philosopher these days)?
Watching the way they interact with one another is also astonishingly beautiful. I have never met a kinder, more aware generation of children in my life. AND THAT GIVES ME SO MUCH HOPE IN THESE HORRIFYING TIMES! They do treat my child’s uniqueness as a gift to them. No one has made her feel less than or weird and I would know because I am haunting that school like a ghost (think Eye of Sauron). Of course, they are five, but even I remember mean girls at five. I watched my daughter meltdown during her first period meeting/story time when they called us up for parent involvement. I also watched as the children continued paying attention to the teacher, not at all distracted or showing that they were distracted. There was an acceptance. Even other parents were staring. I appreciated the children and it kept the fear and worry from welling up at an other-wise sensitive time.
Patience and kindness are two things I asked of parents to explain to their children, as well. The other day, I volunteered (because I live there in a storage closet underneath the Christmas decorations and all the tee-shirts from previous events that are outdated) for Photo Day. I had to assist getting the kids lined up and cleaned up for their photos. One of the older grades was an inclusion class. I took note of the children sitting together waiting for their photos. I heard compliments. I saw nothing but smiles. And not one child was isolated. You could not tell who had special needs and who did not. You just saw happy children enjoying each other’s company. That gave me such relief.
All I asked of parents a year ago were a few simple things that can make everyone happy and help further understanding about autism. It appears as though they got right on that. We are stepping into a new world where kindness matters and individuality is celebrated. When it comes to even our religious practices, I ask Scar to recite to me what we believe in as Wiccans and the first answer in our house is always love. It can come from anywhere, though, not just religious precepts. Open discussions at the dinner table or taking time for one-on-one with your children are other times and things we should be using to push the agenda of loving thy neighbor above all else.
I look forward to helping this along and to be part of making a better world for everyone. Even if I don’t see all of it, I will at least have left a world where children like my daughter are the medicine men or the town leader again. Somewhere along the way we found our humanity again. Let’s keep going.