I’m a few days late in this, but happy April (YAY hopefully warmer weather!) and happy Autism Awareness Month!
For the last four years this has been one of my favorite months to be a special educator. I love any reason to talk about my job and spread awareness about Autism and all of the unique kiddos I get to spend my days growing with.
Meet Chase, one of the many students with Autism that I had the pleasure of teaching, growing with, and learning alongside on a daily basis down in North Carolina.
Going into my first year of teaching in a self contained Autism classroom, I had no idea what to expect. Over the two years I spent in that classroom teaching those wonderful children, I learned more than I ever thought possible. These children were funny, happy, unique, loving, smart, among many other things. There were tough days with meltdowns and there were the best days, like hearing a student tell his mom “I love you” for the very first time, or hearing another read his very first book. Those days are the reason I continue to love, advocate, and work for these individuals each and every day. There has not been a day that I’ve left school without learning something from these amazing, unique little wonders.
What can you learn from them?
Patience. There have been days where my patience has been tested, I’ve needed to step back and take a few deep breaths, and re-enter a new attitude. These days do not happen every day, but they do happen. It often takes looking at the situation through their eyes and finding a different way of understanding and resolving whatever the problem may be.
Respect. People can be mean. They can be critical. Judgmental. Sometimes these children with Autism can’t express their emotions, whether it be anger, sadness, happiness, etc. and it comes out in a different way than you & I. Meltdowns, flapping, stimming, tapping objects, jumping, clapping…these are just some of the different ways that people with Autism communicate their emotions. Instead of making comments or weird looks, try to respect these individuals and their unique way of communicating.
Laughter. Most of all, I have learned to laugh. If I wasn’t able to laugh, I wouldn’t make it through a day as a teacher. Not only that, but these little souls are sometimes the sweetest, most giggly & happy children you will ever meet. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent laughing just with Chase as he would make silly faces at me or just laugh for seemingly no reason at all.
And really, what is life if you can’t spend it laughing?