[Message from the Editor: Yes, I know this installment is long overdue! But at least I’m getting it out there before Henry starts first grade! You can read about my
excuses reasons for the delay here.]
And so finally a bit about my third, and last, experience speaking with Henry’s Kindergarten class about autism just before the end of the school year.
We reviewed a bit about the things we had talked about before and this time I wanted to address some of the sensory issues that often times comes along with autism. We discussed the five senses with which they were familiar. I brought in some pieces of sandpaper to pass around when we talked about how tags and clothing and even human touch might feel to someone with autism. We talked a little bit about how some folks with autism see and hear things differently. I told them about fluorescent lights flickering and I brought in an example of some modulated music to try to give them some idea about how certain tones might sound different. We talked about taste and about what might be different regarding certain foods; taste, texture and even color.
This being my third time, I was so much more relaxed and I think the students were as well. We did a lot of sharing of our own experiences with our five senses. It was nice to see how engaged they were.
Prior to my visit, Mrs. Kindergarten Teacher asked the class if they had any specific questions about autism that they would like me to talk about when I came to class. The main question that they asked about was, “What does someone with autism look like?”
When I posed this question back to the class, Henry shot his hand up and said, “Like me!” Yep! That’s my awesome dude!
This next portion of the lesson was easy! Having just finished up Autism Awareness month, I previously e-mailed Mrs. KT back with links to two Autism Awareness videos made by a couple of wonderful autism moms that I have come to know on Facebook. Henry also happens to be in these videos.
As these videos played the kids commented and ask questions. They also recognized Henry right away which they thought was pretty neat! We talked about how people with autism look just like everyone else. Kids with autism liked to do all different kinds of things just like them. I told them that kids with autism grown up to be adults with autism and that they could be doctors or lawyers or teachers or nurses or waiters or construction workers or whatever they wanted to be. Grown ups who have autism can even be moms and dads!
They wanted to know if we knew these kids and what their names were. I did give first names to the kids and adults I did recognize and they seemed interested in this!
They all seemed to enjoy watching these videos and it was fun to see how enthused they were about all these kids with autism who were really just like themselves in many ways!
Next it was time for a bit of a surprise for me! I knew Mrs. KT was working on a project with the kids about what they had learned about autism but I was quite taken back by what they put together. Mrs. KT took the students words, including Henry’s, and put them into book form and the kids did the illustrations! Mrs. KT read this book aloud as we all watched her turn pages on the screen. It was all I could do to keep the tears from spilling over and running down my cheeks.
Then it was time for me to go. It’s habit/ritual for Henry to do a high-five and a fist-bump and my leaving the classroom was no exception. Another boy across the room saw us and his hand shot up, “I do high-fives!”. Well sure!
Next thing I know I’m giving high-fives and fist-bumps to just about every kid in the class. My heart was full and I was near tears again! What an amazing gift Mrs. KT had given us ~I was given the opportunity and honor of teaching Henry’s peers about him and others with autism and in turn connections were made!
NOTE: I’m trying to do the class’ book justice by putting into a video…it’s been a work in progress as I’m a bit technically challenged! (The learning curve is killing me!) But I think I’m close to having it done and hope to post it SOON!)