Friday, April 8, 2011

An Education

Jared's teacher emailed a couple of weeks back asking if we were interested in Jared doing an oral presentation on Autism to his gr. 6 class.  World Autism Awareness Day was coming up and it seemed like a fine time to enlighten these pre-teens on challenges that some good folks have to work with.

We said yes, knowing that Jared had already done this in gr. 5 and found this was an empowering experience for most people involved.....but mostly for Jared.

One gr. 6 class evolved into three gr. 6 classes and a simple 10 minute presentation turned into that plus 35 minutes of questions from the kids and teachers.  Jared, of course, could not answer them all and so Sean and I were able to step in and answer questions when necessary.  Even Jordan, who left his class to attend, answered questions about what it was like to be the sibling and I think we really tried to answer all questions as honestly and realistically as we could.

I was surprised at how thoughtful many of the questions were.  I was surprised at how many questions there were.

One of the highlights for me was when one student asked Jared where he rated himself on the spectrum, Jared thoughtfully stared at the ceiling for a few seconds then looked at his audience and confidently said, "About a four."

Yesterday I was at a workshop and ran into Jared's aide at school.  Later during our lunch break she introduced me to a woman who had a son in Jared's class.  Apparently when she heard that Jared's mom was at the workshop, she wanted to meet me.

She told me that after school on presentation day, her son could not stop talking about Jared's presentation.  It was all he could talk about as she shuttled him from one activity to another.  He said, "I feel bad that people treat Jared badly.  He doesn't have a mean bone in his body!"

About seventy-five children were in attendance that day.  That was feedback from one of them.  I'd like to think that more of them are thinking the same thing now and that they grew and learned a little.

There's a boy who Jared always says hello to who consistently replies with something mean.  This week Jared said hello to him.  The boy just didn't say anything.  Jared saw that as an improvement.  "At least he's not being mean,"  he said.

Small improvements.