Yesterday, Corbin and I took on the role as educators as we did a presentation on autism for a room of 15 second graders.
I've been meaning to do this all year but as always time flies by. Days are filled with work, sports teams, appointments, therapies. There's never enough time.
Finally, I was motivated. I was motivated by Autism Awareness Month. I was motivated by the eye rolls I saw peers do when he flapped his hands. I was motivated by a teacher overhearing someone saying that Brian didn't know anything. I was motivated by the stares he gets when he makes a vocal outburst.
The presentation had four main focuses.
One: What the heck is autism?
Two: Taking a Walk in Brian's Shoes.
Three: Despite all the Difficulties and Differences, Brian is Just Like You!
Four: How to be a Good Friend to Someone with Autism.
I was shocked to see only three hands out of the 15 go up when I asked, "Who here has heard the word autism?"
I really felt like I have not been doing my job. How are there a dozen kids in Brian's class that hadn't even heard the word "Autism"? I'm not one of those parents that are shy of speaking of the diagnosis. I have educated my fair share of parents and children at playgrounds, the children's museum, and the zoo. Why have I neglected to do so at the place he spends the majority of his time at?
However, guilt aside (the never-ending guilt of the autism parent is a post all in it's own), the presentation as a whole went extremely well. The kids were amazed at how senses could be processed differently. We did some fun stuff with fire sirens and imagining that all the noises in our environment were that loud for us. We had to try to read words in a jumbled, messed up page. We imagined what it would be like to have to use the bathroom but not being able to ask to leave the room.
The kids were very focused and into the presentation. They shared a lot of stories with me of things Brian has done and things they have done for Brian. I left their room feeling like they were able to understand Brian a bit more.
I ended up shadowing Brian for the remainder of the day and when we went back to his regular ed classroom I was blown away with his classmates making an effort to come over to talk to him. I listened as one child said something, paused, and then asked again more slowly and clearly- a point I had made in our presentation. I watched another give him a high five out of nowhere.
Children are kind at their root and it's our job to educate them so they continue to be kind to those that are different. If my son's peers don't even know why he can't talk, there isn't much hope for them understanding and accepting him. So yesterday, I like to think, that Corbin and I made a difference.