Back to school is finally here! In the next coming weeks you will be presented with countless challenges along with successes as your students and teachers transition for the new academic year. I know that your plates will be full but for 5 minutes today I want to share with you something that I think will make a difference and impact for at least one if not more of your students.
And that thing is autism awareness.
I have a personal story when it comes to this topic. When I was 4 I was diagnosed with autism. The #’s of autism when I was diagnosed were 1 in every 1000 being diagnosed with autism, not the 1 in 68 we have today. Back then very few people knew what autism even was. I was one of the only kids in my classes who had autism. Today, you can’t go anywhere it seems without knowing someone connected in someway to a person on the spectrum.
Having autism and going to school can be challenging. At this time many students with autism are dealing with difficult transitions, as they get accustomed to a new structure. This used to be one of my most challenging struggles in schools. I had a routine during the summer and all of a sudden it felt like it was ‘stolen’ from me. Other things such as difficulty making friends, bullying, twirling my hair, reading comprehension and much more made me scared if I would ever be able to succeed in school.
Luckily, one of my dreams was to go to college and it propelled me to finding the self-motivation in myself to graduate from grade school, graduate from high school, get accepted into 15 colleges and than, 6 years later, graduating with my undergraduate and Masters degrees. With supports during that time led by my parents and educators I was able to make this happen.
With that I hope you will educate your educators on autism by going to websites such as Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of America to learn more what autism is and how you can help students with autism today. Then, I hope you will educate the students on not only what autism and other special needs are, but also accepting all students for who they are. Today in the United States a child is bullied in school every 7 minutes.
I hope you will also consider having self-advocates such as myself out to speak at your schools to share our experiences and tips with both educators and students. Our voices can help lead a movement of acceptance in our communities.
Together, with your support this year and every year following it we will help make the world a more accepting and educated place for our loved ones to live in.
Don’t let ignorance define our schools. Help us educate and break down those barriers with education.
What a great world that would be to live in.
P.S: For those reading this who aren’t a principal, but want to help spread the word, please consider sharing this article with them to help get your schools involved. Together, we can and will make a difference!