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April 2, 2012 / paperkids

Shining a light on autism!

I didn’t have any tissue so I tore my crinkled Starbucks napkin in half and gave one half to my friend, Candy.  I don’t know why I didn’t expect to cry.  After all, it’s not everyday that you watch someone give a presentation to the whole school about your kids!  Well, the presentation wasn’t about  my children in particular, but it’s hard not to feel so personally connected to a presentation all about special needs kids.  And especially when both your children happen to have autism.  It was relevant too, since our school has five classes that make up the autism program that Emma and Hayden are in.   Our kids have a lot of contact with the general ed classes because the school has been so great about incorporating socialization.  Us moms never really know how it is for our kids and especially since most of them are nonverbal or have low communication skills.  We don’t know how the other kids feel or what they truly know about our kids, who may act differently or have a different form of communication. Our PTA was wonderful enough to hire a specialist to come in and give an inclusion assembly to show the general ed kids how they could be a better friend to those with special needs and get them to open their minds to how it would be to have a disability.

“Kids with autism are kids first,  They love ice cream and want to make friends just like you do” he told the other children.  I hoped nobody saw the tear sliding down my cheek.  The kids seemed to hang on every word and were very engaged, which is not an easy task for a group of elementary students.   And when the presenter flashed the picture of Sahoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokemon up on the projector and explained how he has a form of autism, well, you can imagine the gasps from the young audience.

“Yes, that’s right.  The creator of Pokemon has autism.  But it didn’t stop him from creating one of the most awesome characters ever!  In fact, it was probably tough for him to make friends when he was little.  He spent a great deal of time drawing, and he was very good at it!  I bet now, everybody wants to be his friend!”

The kids were dumbfounded.  Now all of us parents watching knew that the list of famous people with disabilities in the presentation didn’t necessarily represent our kids.  There were no nonverbal people in the bunch like Tito or Sue Rubin.  I knew that when the presentor told the kids to “go up and strike  a conversation” that it might not apply to all our kids in quite the same way since most of them are nonverbal.  But even so, I like to believe that those children were all listening and really re-thinking what they knew about their buddies in the autism program.  The ones who had no voice.  The ones who maybe didn’t seem like they wanted to play or make friends.  The ones who had “odd” or “inappropriate” behaviors.  Oh, it was very emotional to think of those kids hearing this.  And our kids were there, too.  I wondered what they thought.  I wonder how it felt for them to have a whole assembly dedicated just to them.

Was this man the voice that they didn’t have?  It felt like it was their time to shine.

After school, I was at the computer and Emma came up to me with a picture in her hand.  It was a PECS card.

“Where on earth did you find this, Emma?”  We haven’t used PECS this way in a while.  Her eyes were smiling.  I grabbed it and started laughing.


Of course, I had to get her some chocolate.

Later on….  She reached up for the crayons I keep on top of the fridge so they don’t get eaten by Hayden.   I asked her to draw a sun for me.  Then she wrote her name and I couldn’t remember having seen it written any better…

Then later…..

She brought me yet another PEC pic!  This time of fries.  So of course, I had to call Jared and tell him to stop by and get some on the way home…yeah, yeah McDonalds, the “good” kind.

By then, I had found her stash of PECS.  They’ve always been accessible but she hasn’t used them like this in a while.  She just seemed on fire, doing so many things I don’t usually see her do.  She was so lit up!!

Me:  “Emma, what’s gotten into you?  You are full of it today!”

She reached out to the nearby keyboard and even her typing, which had been difficult lately, seemed much better.

Emma:  the fantastic info the guy gave today really lifted my spirit

I let this sink in for a moment.

You know, I knew that the inclusion assembly would be great for the other kids – the “typical” kids.  I knew that it would help them understand our kids better.  I knew that it might help them be better friends to our kids and try to understand and accept them more. I knew that it would let them know that some pretty amazing people out there have disabilities and that those differences have helped them become the successful people that they are.  Because of, not despite their differences….

But I wasn’t really expecting this – that Emma and all those other children with autism would hear that presentation and be reminded of how wonderful they are just the way they are, differences and all….. that someone knows how badly they want to make friends and now their whole school knows it too!…that their peers now know that they want the same things as every other kid, to fit in and belong… that there are other people that have autism just like they do and they are doing some pretty amazing things.

Reading Emma’s words typed out reminded me again of the importance of encouragement for these children.  The power of saying just little things like “You can do it!”  and “I believe in you”.   Words like these can light up the lives of children with special needs.  A little encouragement can make a huge difference!

Today is World Autism Awareness Day and tonight I’ll be participating in a local Light it Up Blue event to promote autism awareness.   I’ll see many kids and moms I know and look at all the artwork submitted from kids with autism, including one of Emma’s  poems  and her Reflections story, which won 2nd Place in her school!  I’m thankful to live in a community that shows support like this in such a positive way!

Next time you get an opportunity, don’t forget to tell someone with autism how great you think they are!!!!

Different not less!!!

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3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. MOTSL / Apr 3 2012 1:55 am

    Another thought-provoking post; each of us have something of value to share with others.

  2. Melanie Whitney / Apr 11 2012 12:49 am

    Hi! This is Mel Whitney from church and Helmers. I am so excited to read your blog! One of my beast friend’s son is featured in the video that they used for the assembly and she will be so happy to hear that it helped make an impact. We are actually going to be walking on the 21st on Team Trekking for Tristan for him. Can’t wait to read more of your families awesome achievements and Emma’s spiritual connections and messages.

    • paperkids / Apr 11 2012 11:42 pm

      Thanks for the comment Mel!! And thanks for all you do for us! That’s so cool about Tristan. Yes, please tell them that it was so great for the kids to see it.

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