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Freshmen and Autism

On Tuesday I decided to pause a moment in my English 9 classes to talk about autism.

As I've mentioned before, I have several autistic students this year.  Some are diagnosed autistic, others are clearly autistic but, for one reason or another, not officially labeled that by the school, though they're still special education students.  They fall under "speech and language impaired."

Anyway, they're all in my classes, and I know the neuro-typical students have noticed, so I figured we needed to talk about it.

"We're going to take a few moments now," I said, "so that we can talk about autism.  Some people are familiar with autism, and others aren't . . . "

I gave a little explanation about what autism is and the fact that my son Aran is autistic and talked about some of the challenges autistic people face, along with some of their strengths.

"It's okay to talk about autism, including with autistic people," I said.  "A lot of times we're told it's rude to talk about differences, like if someone is in a wheelchair or wears a hearing aid or has other challenges, but it's perfectly all right to talk about this and ask questions, especially if you're trying to understand better.  More and more people are being recognized as autistic all the time, so it's good for all of us to know what it's about."

The autistic students in the room weren't at all shy about adding their own information and experiences, and they seemed glad to see that their condition was recognized and discussed in class.  (I'm imaginging some of them going home and saying, "We talked about autism in English class today!")

Overall, the discussion went enormously well, and I think it helped the neuro-typical students understand a lot better who these students were and what was happening with them.
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