The Best School Speech

Jackson Cook is one impressive 8-year old. He took a very brave step at the beginning of his school year at the Twin Cities German Immersion School, where he is in the third grade, by giving a speech about autism. You see, Jackson, nicknamed Jax, wanted his new class to understand why he’s easily frustrated or avoids eye contact – and why he needs extra help sometimes. So, with help from his mom, Jax wrote a heartfelt speech, which he read to his class. In it, he shared:

“Raise your hand if you know what autism is. Raise your hand if you know that I have autism. It makes some parts of my brain work really well and some parts of my brain work not very well. Doctors don’t know what makes some brains have autism and some brains not have it. I have it, but Charley doesn’t, even though he’s my twin brother.

Sometimes I need help learning things that other brains automatically know. Like my brain tells my body that it is not comfortable to look at someone in the face when they talk to me.

The autism in my brain is something that I like, and something that I don’t like, but it’s part of me, just like your brain is part of you.”

When asked about Jax’s speech, one of his classmates said, “I thought it was a good speech because it was really nice and really brave.”

We couldn’t agree more! Check out more on Jax’s speech here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Field Day Fun

Another amazing example of how peer support can make all the difference! Check out this video of Preston Lillis, a 5th grader in Grandville, Michigan, who has Asperger’s, get cheered on by his classmates during their annual Field Day. As shared here,  Preston’s parents said Field Day usually made him anxious, so much so that last year Preston was so stressed it caused a migraine and he had to miss the event. So this year his teachers and classmates came up with a plan to let Preston win and make it a fun experience for him.

And it looks like it worked! It’s the little things and times of thoughtfulness that can really make a lasting impact.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Lunch Buddies

Tate (center) and two of his buddies

Tate (center) and two of his buddies

I learned about a program called Lunch Buddy – through this article – and I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you. Maybe you’ve heard about this type of program  — or, better yet, maybe your child is involved in something like this at school.

The article specifically talks about a mom, Lisa, who established a program for her second youngest child, 13-year-old Tate, who has autism. When Tate was in second grade, Lisa, along with help of her son’s school, brought together students from Tate’s class to have lunch with him on a rotating basis. This served as an opportunity for Tate to practice social skills – asking questions, working on the reciprocity of language, and even body language. His Lunch Buddy program is now in its fifth year, and although it’s been a long road and it took a lot of adult guidance over the course of these years, Tate’s parents are seeing how much he has developed socially in that time.

And here’s the thing, I have no doubt that such a program has been so greatly beneficial to Tate, but what I actually really love from this story is the impact it has had on his classmates that have been helping Tate over the years during their lunches – and recess time – together. Being a lunch buddy to Tate was something they had to sign up for, and it has empowered the kids to know they are helping Tate. As one of the lunch buddies said, “It’s kind of easy ‘cause he likes everybody. He’s just a good friend and he understands you.” Another said, “Some people don’t really listen to you when you talk, but Tate always seems to be listening to you. And he always knows the right things to say.” What an amazing teacher Tate has been to these kids as well.

Lisa discusses the Lunch Buddy program on her blog, Quirks and Chaos, which we encourage you to check out.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Dealing with Bullies

The View

Although some of Jenny McCarthy’s thoughts on autism (particularly around the cause of autism) have created some controversy, she’s a mom that’s trying to navigate the often bumpy road of autism. The other week on The View, she brought up the topic of bullying, but with a specific twist that parents of autistic children may specifically face. McCarthy’s son, Evan, is being bullied at summer camp – however, he doesn’t know it.

She explains, My son’s main goal is to make as many friends as possible,” McCarthy said, before adding that she got a heartbreaking email from the camp revealing that the kids he believes are his “friends” are actually bullying him.

They’re laughing at him but he laughs too,” she said. “I said, ‘You have to find the kids that like you and are nice to you. Who do you sit next to in the cafeteria?’ And he said, ‘No one. I ask, and they say no.”

She has mixed feelings about it – on one hand, she is relieved that he’s unaware the kids are being mean, but on the other, she is trying to figure out when to teach him about bullying and what he’s actually experiencing.

What would you do? Or, if you’ve gone through something like this, what have you done? Whoopi Goldberg (McCarthy’s co-host) gave her some – what I thought to be good – advice, which was to talk to the other kids’ parents because they may not be aware it’s happening and they could help address the situation. I would also hope that the camp, knowing they’re aware of what’s going on, is doing their part to stop this type of bullying.

If you are faced with bullying, here are some tips shared by Autism File (based on feedback from their own readers) that could help:

  • Find out what your school district’s (or camp’s) policy on bullying is and be prepared to advocate for better if needed.
  • Share social stories with your child that deal with bullying.
  • Consider a volunteer job at your child’s school (or camp) which will give you an opportunity to watch out for any questionable actions or words that might be red flags for bullying.
  • Employ a buddy system by asking a trusted teacher, aide, or even a non-disabled peer to keep an eye out for any negative actions or words directed towards your child.

Read more of their tips here.

Lynsey Community Manager