July 22, 2013

Teach Your Children Well

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , at 8:32 am by autismmommytherapist

Winter-Spring 11 491

Several weeks ago I attended a meeting at my eldest son’s school, one in which major program changes were to be announced, including a potential shift in my child’s instructor. I went with my heart in my throat, because my son has had his same teacher for three consecutive years, and I knew the decision could go either way.

At the end of the session, which talked mostly about instructional changes in the program, one of my son’s principals told the assembled parents they could go to their child’s classroom, and he turned to me and said Justin’s current teacher’s name.

I was so overwhelmed with relief I almost didn’t get it- were we starting with the “old” teacher and moving on to the new?  Could my son really be allowed to stay with the instructional leader he loves, the woman to whom he’s formed a major attachment, for a final year?  Would this really be one less thing I’d have to perseverate about?

It turns out, for once, it was.

My son started summer school recently, and before he left the first morning I asked him if he wanted to go to school (I got the nod). I also asked him if he wanted to see his teacher, and once again, I got that coveted dip of the head. He was grinning from ear to ear, picking up his backpack eagerly when the bus came across the driveway, almost running to the steps leading to the interior of his yellow chariot.

I knew when he got to school he’d still have to deal with the alterations in his dearly beloved landscape. Most of the instructional staff had moved on, and more than half the class had moved on with them. My boy apparently took it all in, supposedly looked really confused and curious for a good hour after class started, then relaxed and went with the changes.

My guess is as long as he has his adored teacher in front of him, anything goes.

I’m writing today about this experience because not long ago I had a conversation with a near-stranger about my boy and his teacher, and my anecdote was met with some incredulity. The person to whom I was speaking was not only shocked that Justin had noticed the major changes in the room- he was amazed he’d formed such an attachment to his teacher.

I wasn’t insulted or angered by his queries- it was simply that he didn’t know that a severely autistic child could form deep attachments of any kind, either with school staff or their families. In truth, the conversation just made me sad.

I certainly don’t speak for all severely autistic children- fortunately these days I don’t even have to speak for Justin as much as in the past, due to the glories of Proloquotogo on his iPad. But with all the awareness being raised about autism, from the bloggers to the organizations to the myriad conferences across the nation, it simply stunned me that even someone with no immediate connection to autism could still entertain the idea that my boy couldn’t love.

While these conversations I have with near- strangers don’t typically end in this manner, enough of them still do to leave me concerned. Because when an individual fails to see the enormous emotional capacity in my son, I believe he sees him as a little less human than all the rest of us; or perhaps, just less.

We who care for Justin are so fortunate that he does show his affection for us, and he does so with a fierceness that leaves no doubt as to the intensity of his feelings. Not every family may be so lucky, and yet their child still deserves to be seen as fully human, fully capable of loving and of being loved. Every autistic individual deserves to be treated with dignity, and with respect.

Heck, let’s just cut that down to every individual.

I’m thrilled with the progress the autism community, including people with autism, has made with “explaining” our kids and adults to the world, but I think there’s still more work left to be accomplished. And in the meantime, a not-so-little boy who can’t talk with his mouth but moves mountains with his heart and hands will continue to hug his teacher every morning, and shower his parents with much-coveted affection.

And I’ll relish every kiss I get.



  1. Mom said,

    Beautifully said. That special smile that Justin reserves for me each time he sees me still brings tears to my eyes and always will. Love that boy!

  2. Cindy Toomey said,

    Amen ❤

  3. Here’s a big hug to all of you! xoxo

  4. Temple Grandin – “Different, not less.” I saw Will the other day for the first time in a while and when I walked in the door he pointed at me as to say, “Hey, I know you.” Then he grabbed me and hugged me and kissed me. Never underestimate the love of a child.

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