I am proud to share this post, which has been written my daughter. It is comprised of a series of paragraphs she wrote for her English class. She is a teenager and presents her perspectives on how we sometimes view kids who behave unexpectedly, as well as how we “do” inclusion. I believe her voice is important, and I wonder, when we are asking our youth their thoughts on education, are we remembering to ask their thoughts on inclusion? Because their answers just might surprise us.
Author: Courtney Copeland
The room full of children screeching and yelling was deathly loud. Sadie sat still and emotionless. She could not focus. Her tiny legs started to bounce up and down as her eyes trailed around the black and white room. A room that was once full of colour. While her thoughts wandered from topic to topic, the prickling sensation in the back of her eyes became more painful by the second. Small tears spilled out of her eyes. She wondered why everyone thought she was weird and gross. Suddenly the lights became too bright. Sighing, Sadie felt a faint hint of salt in her mouth as a tear trickled into it. Closing her eyes, she drummed her fingers along her thighs. Dread washed over her when she realized she would always be different from the other kids. Her five year old brain already processing that she would always be classified as weird.
The kindergarten classroom bustled with life. Children were painting, there was a mess of reds, blues and greens everywhere. One child sat alone at a circular table, uninterested in what was going on. Her tiny hands covered in paint doodled streaks and circles on the messy surface of the table. “Hi.” A feminine voice said, causing Sadie to look up. “My name’s Maddie, can I sit here with you?” The girl in front of Sadie asked. Sadie nodded in reply before turning her attention back to what she was doing. Soon the pair were laughing and smiling. However, Sadie decided that she wanted to be silly and make Maddie laugh more. She grabbed a glob of paint and threw it all over Maddie. Shrieking and wailing echoed in the room, teachers quickly rushing over. One teacher yelled at Sadie to sit in the corner while Maddie screamed at her that she was weird. “I just wanted to play..” Sadie explained, tears forming in her eyes as she sat in the dull, dark corner.
To society, autism is a mental disability. What is autism to me? It resembles a colour. Unique, different and distinctive. Why am I interested in this? My younger brother was diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 11. At the time my family had gone through many different challenges to get to that point. Because of this my personality was influenced not only by my brother – but my family itself. My brother’s thoughts and actions changed my view of things, while my mind became more open about ideas and thoughts. At a young age I had to quickly understand that my brother was “different” from the other kids, and I became more observant about other people’s behaviours. Nowadays, before I make any decisions I take into consideration other people’s thoughts about the situation (ex: group decisions for class). Although we have had our ups and downs, my brother is the best sibling I could ever ask for. What other people think is “weird”, I find makes him an amazing person with an astounding personality.
Many people in the world believe that kids with autism should be “excluded,” so to speak, from certain places that “normal” children thrive in. This main issue is mostly found in schooling. Currently some schools either have no support at all for autistic kids – or have little support which is not enough to meet the needs of the children. A solution would involve the community and the school system demanding the government provides enough funding for support in every school, not just providing it when possible. The system should create a program where instead of closing off special needs children, they should be put inside an environment where they can be more social. When these children are enclosed in a different space entirely with only children with mental disabilities/special needs, they do not know how to “act” around other children who do not experience the same things as they do. As a student I had noticed that during middle school, some of the kids that had special needs were being placed exactly in the space described above. Most of their time was spent inside an enclosed classroom, and whenever they did get to go outside or interact with other kids it almost always ended badly. They would be excluded, resulting in anger from the children with autism which eventually provoked the parents. This is the reason why adults believe they should go to an “all special needs school.” A while ago, there was an article in the news about a mother with an autistic son. Her son was called a “monster” by another parent because of his behaviour. Closing off children with special needs does not benefit them. All in all, steps need to be taken to make these children feel accepted – not excluded.
Today, there are still people who are not aware of how autism may affect one person greatly, and another so little that it almost looks like they do not have autism at all. What people don’t understand is that there are different levels of autism. The spectrum is a list of different forms of autism, that all display different behaviours. There may be a child whose autism is focused more on speech, and another focused on actions. Because of this, many parents are led to believe that, “Oh, he doesn’t talk funny or make weird actions, he’s just overly aggressive and a horrible child. It must be the parent’s fault for bad parenting!” This is an overly false accusation. Those are the types of people who believe there is only one type of autism. Parents who have children with different types of autism are often blamed for their child’s actions, causing an uproar in their life. That is not remotely okay, which is why autism needs to be more integrated and taught about in our daily lives.
I am Ethan.
You may not understand me, or the way I feel today. You may not understand my reasoning for things I do or say.
The reasons why I’m so loud and say things over & over again, Why I run so differently or lose my homework every now & then.
I write my letters backwards and sometimes numbers too, and when in a conversation, I’ll say “Guess what” 100 times to you.
Too much noise, light, or excitement can set me in a spin. I don’t like the way these pants feel rubbing against my skin.
I try to be good, but sometimes it’s hard to control, I have to do it, it’s an impulse, I don’t always do what I’m told.
Ketchup, Ranch and BBQ sauce on everything I eat, sometimes I have days that I just can’t sit still in my seat.
I like to talk a lot even when it’s out of turn, my mind plays tricks on me and interrupts what I’m trying to learn.
Sit up straight, wipe my face, and play ever so soft, some of these things I have trouble with and I usually lose my train of thought.
I didn’t mean to spill the milk mom, or slam the door so hard, everyone else is done with their homework, I don’t know where to start?
My heart’s as big as gold, my feelings get hurt too, I get sad, cry and have bad days just like you.
My brain works differently than other girls and boys, but one thing always holds true, I can give your life so much joy.
I get frustrated so easily and my hand won’t work that way, I don’t understand why those other kids won’t let me come over and play.
Please don’t think of me any differently or love of me any less, I’m just like other kids and trying to do my best.
I am very special in my own unique way, and every moment with me you’ll never have a dull day.
People, or rather we, in this society are quick to blame and judge others before understanding the whole story of things. In the poem the author writes, “I don’t understand why those kids won’t let me come over and play” (line 26). This quote shows that because Ethan is different from the other kids since being diagnosed with autism, he is judged by his personality. Throughout the poem, it is shown how the mind of an autistic child thinks. As shown when the author says “I write my letters backwards, and sometimes numbers too” (line 6). Often we perceive that we know exactly how everyone acts just by looking at them. The fact is that we truly cannot. This is implied in the quote “I’m just like other kids and trying to do my best” (line 28). Showing that we make ourselves believe we have a “superpower” that tells us exactly how someone is going to act just by glancing at them, without getting to know their personality. Judging is something that we can never truly get rid of. Although, we can help diminish the amount of judging that goes on in society in the future.
Back in June, I wrote the post “Do You Know Her?” and at the end, I wrote:
“…she is a champion on the inside. When she finds her voice, you will know this. And she will finally know it too.“
My girl has found her voice, and I couldn’t be prouder.