Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Ten Year Old Answers the Question, What is Autism?

My ten year old daughter, Ashley, came home from school today and said, "Mom, I have a special homework assignment that you and I have to do together." Her teacher started reading a book with the class today called Rules.  It is about a little girl who has a younger brother with autism.  Of course, my daughter informed her class that her mom works with children with autism.  Her teacher asked her to go home and interview me so that she can tell the class more about autism tomorrow before they read more of the book together.  So, I shared some things about autism with Ashley.  I asked her just to listen, and when I finished, she wrote her interpretation of what I shared with her in her own words.  She did such a good job, I thought I'd share what she wrote here:

The most important thing about kids with autism is that they all have special strengths and special interests.  Some kids have amazing talents such as musicians, artists, and amazing memory.  Kids with autism need to be taught how to socially interact.  They don't just know, and when they misbehave, they do it because they think it is the right thing.  They want to please people.  How we need to be taught a science lesson or something is how they learn how to interact and how they learn social behaviors.  It doesn't just come to them.  Sometimes a kid with autism will misbehave because they're trying to communicate but they don't know how so they will scream or yell because they don't know what to do.  Another thing is sometimes they don't pay attention when someone's talking or reading a book or whatever simply because they don't know they're supposed to.  But what we can do is make sure they are engaged by role playing or gesturing.  Sometimes they misbehave because they live in fear and they get scared of not so scary things.  They don't like new things or when it's chaotic.  They get a little anxious because they don't know what's going on.  Kids should try to be friends with kids with disabilities because kids with autism seem to be more comfortable with adults.  So instead of going up to a kid with autism and say, "Hi, do yo wanna play?" and walk away after the kid doesn't respond, give them a ball, ask them again, tap his/her arm because they didn't answer because they're scared.  Once you show you want to be friends, they will want to be friends too.  Instead of pulling a kid with autism away from something they're interested in and are doing, stop what you're doing and join him/her.  Say they like swinging, but what they'll like better is swinging with a friend.  Once you keep doing that with the same person, they will have less fear and better yet, they will have a new best friend, and you will too.  Because I believe you will never meet a kid with a disability that you can't learn to love.

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