I’ve written both here and on my Facebook page about how Henry’s Kindergarten teacher asked me to come into the classroom to talk to the kids a little bit about autism. Yesterday afternoon I had my first visit.
All the children were on the rug and I explained to them that I was there to talk about autism. I asked if anyone had heard that word before and if they knew what it was. I got some “yes” and some “no”. I asked if anyone had a question before I read a book to them about autism.
My son’s hand shot up. In my head I’m thinking, “really, dude?”
“Yes, Henry. What is your question?”
“I hate G*!”
Of all the kids to be outspoken about not liking kids with differences, it’s MY kid, you know, the one WITH autism, that probably needs the most help in understanding the feelings of others. Which is exactly why we thought it important to have him there in class for my visits. Clearly, we’ve got a lot of work to do with my son. Henry’s teacher quickly diffused the situation by explaining that it is not okay to say things like that and that those words hurt. We then segued into explaining that the story I was going to share not only was about autism but about having a friend that was different.
With 17 pairs of 5 and 6 year-old eyes upon me I began by reading the book, My Friend Has Autism by Amanda Tourville.
Mrs. KT (Kindergarten Teacher) then did an exercise with them demonstrating how sometimes we liked the same things and sometimes we didn’t and that it is okay but we still need to treat each other nicely.
She began by asking a series of questions asking and motioning to the kids to either side of the rug depending on their answers. The questions got harder as she went on but here are just a sample:
“Who likes pizza best stand on this side of the rug and those who like hot dogs best stand on this other side.”
“Who likes to give and get big hugs stand here and those who don’t like to be touched stand over here.”
“Those who like to have a lot of friends come to this sides and those who prefer to have just a few friends go to this other side.”
“Those who think that we should treat everyone nicely no matter our differences stand on this side of the rug. Those who think it’s okay not to be nice to someone because they are different stand on this other side.”
Importantly, on this last question all of the kids were standing on the “right” side! We talk about how it is important to be kind to one another even if we don’t agree with them or want to be their friend. We don’t have to be friends with everyone but we do need to be kind to everyone.
Next we moved on to talk about how different our brains are. How what we see in our brains can be very different from each other. Then the kids made “brain hats”. Each student was given a sheet of paper with an outline of a brain and they were asked to color in and draw on what they saw inside their brain. Then we attached their picture to a paper band that fit around their head to complete the “hat”.
With that it was time for me to go but Mrs. KT told the class that I would be coming back again to talk more about autism.
Some asked, “Tomorrow?”
Mrs. KT and I laughed and said, “No, not tomorrow but soon.”
[I haven’t yet had a chance to speak with Mrs. KT to get her feedback on the lesson and we haven’t set a date yet for me to come back. Personally, I think I should have been able to do much better. I just don’t feel I can relate to kids all that well, especially those that are not my own. They intimidate the heck out of me. But, since Mrs. KT did tell them I would be coming back I guess I did well enough. I’d give myself a C. Usually the more I DO something, the better I get. I’m hoping that is the case here because I’ve been given a WONDERFUL opportunity here and I sure do want to make the most of it!]