It’s never too early…or too late to start…

25 Sep

teaching normally developing, “typical” kids about autism.

My boys have learned from a very young age about their sister, but I’ve witnessed a growing trend in my area of parents with only typically developing children encouraging their kids to play with and meet autistic children. I have also witnessed them seeking out the parents of autistic children to educate themselves and offer support. This is a very encouraging thing to see. It is undoubtedly true that the earlier kids learn about autism and about how to relate to autistic kids, the better chance we have of ensuring they will be kind and compassionate and we can reduce instances of bullying.

But, honestly, it is never too late to start. The King (my husband), teaches high school in another county. He frequently talks about The Princess and tells stories about her and talks about autism with his students. He shows them pictures. They have seen her first day of kindergarten. They have seen her surf. He has seen marked changes in some kids as to how they understand autism and treat peers with autism. One of his students on the first day of school had a (sadly typical) somewhat ignorant question regarding The Princess and asked if we put her in a home. Before my husband had a chance to answer, several female students jumped on the student asking him how he could think something like that, etc… The  King got the class under control and thanked the student. He explained that autism is a spectrum disorder and all individuals are different. He explained that in The Princess’s case, we are able to fully care for her in our own home without outside help at this point. He also explained that for some adults with autism, they do need to be in group home situations or alternative living situations. He said our ultimate goal was for The Princess to be able to live independently but a lot could happen between now and the time she turns 18. He thanked the student for his question, because you never know until you ask.

The King also has had students with autism. He has successfully been able to integrate them into his classes and help them navigate both the academics and the social aspects of class. He loves that he can do this for kids and hope they will become the next generation of people who understand and can make the world a better place for those with autism.

Currently, along with one other mom in our area, we are starting a play group for children with varying abilities. We are spreading the word and opening it to children in all areas of the spectrum and also to normally developing siblings and normally developing children. Our hope is that by interaction we can educate both parents and children and that all of the children can learn from one another. It is remarkable the response that we have gotten. People are very interested in this approach.

It is not our job to educate others every hour of every day about autism. I admit, I find it a daunting task to think I would have to educate every person who gives me a funny look at Big Box Mart because The Princess doesn’t talk, but there are great opportunities out there and we should be encouraging those we know with normally developing children to have playdates and join us for events. It can be educational for everyone AND we shouldn’t assume it will be a disaster. Kids can surprise us and be very astute and helpful. If we are open and if we let them.

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