Thursday, January 6, 2011

Your Guest Speaker Has Arrived!

The Orator
photo credit-SeaDave
Creative Commons license

Liz related that these were the words that Buddy Boy said when he entered the meeting at the school this afternoon. Was this a disciplinary meeting, an IEP meeting, something worse? No. Buddy Boy's principal (who has a special education background) asked Buddy Boy if he would mind talking to a group of teachers and staff about autism. Dr. D. is a fair person who has high expectations from all of her students, and has also gone out of her way to give Buddy Boy the benefit of the doubt in multiple instances when he has gotten into "situations" at school. We will miss her next year when he goes to middle school (for those that are not regular followers of this blog, Buddy Boy is currently mainstreamed in a regular 5th grade class).

Dr. D. had a few lunchtime meetings with Buddy Boy to discuss what questions she was going to ask him in front of the group (things like how he felt about being autistic, what he liked about it, what difficulties it presented, etc.). I'm not sure what the purpose of the gathering was, but it included teachers from all of the district schools, including the middle and high schools. In short, it was a pretty full room.

Now you would think that most people would be a little nervous talking to such a big group. I myself get nervous talking in front of groups, and I teach! For his part, Buddy Boy gets extremely anxious when he does anything with his peers. He WANTS to be involved with them and do things (singing, band), but at the last minute his anxiety is so high that he has a lot of difficulty partaking in performances, even when he is only one of a group of many that is performing. Thank heaven for occasional guardian angels.

But this afternoon, in front of a room full of teachers, he was in his element. Not a trace of anxiety. He stood in front of them, talked for about 10 minutes, then fielded questions for another 10 minutes or so. I suspect he helped their understanding of how autistics think both directly and indirectly (at one point he did one of his 270 degree segues, saying "...speaking of which, if we could harness the space inside of atoms, we could probably come up with a new energy source to help people out").

The audience was friendly and respectful. One art teacher, who had had him briefly as a student 5 1/2 years ago for a couple of months (when we had a really bad experience in Kindergarten) said that she remembered Buddy Boy. Buddy Boy turned to look at her, addressed her by name, and told her he remembered making a "pinch pot" with her. It's amazing the things he remembers sometimes. Another teacher related how when they were covering a unit on caves, that she learned new things from Buddy Boy that she had not known about caves before.

Liz and I both agree that many there were probably surprised that Buddy Boy considers his autism a "gift". He admits that it causes difficulties sometimes, but he definitely sees the upside of being autistic. He came to this all on his own, without us trying to push him in any particular direction. I think it's great that they see such a perspective, so that perhaps some of them will also see the upside of being autistic, and not pigeonhole students with negative assumptions. I also think it's great that Dr. D. sets such a great example to her teachers and staff. She really gets the message out that she wants ALL of her kids to succeed.

I just think it's great that I can write a post regarding school and a meeting, and feel good about it.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Spirit, and New Year's Resolution

for some reason Blogger's not letting me post pictures tonight, so no pictures for you

This year the kids are 8 and 10. Sometime soon after last Christmas, Buddy Boy stopped believing in Santa, and ever since then when talking to us about him would make some "air quotes" with his fingers when saying his name. Letting us know that he was big now, and he knew that it was a scam. He promised not to tell Sweet Pea, but of course such promises are hard to keep, and he spent the run-up to the holiday this year in telling her repeatedly that it was just parents.

Sweet Pea has asked several questions, to which we usually just reflected back at her, "Well, what do you think?" With all the logical power that an 8 year old that wants to believe could muster, Sweet Pea came up with reason after reason that Santa had to be real. "I saw it on TV (how he gets down the chimney), he's very fast, and the presents are there with our names on them, so who would have left them?" Buddy Boy has been arguing logic back at her "Why aren't there any sooty foot prints? Parents can eat the cookies we left, how does he get all around the world in one night?", etc.

Coming down to the finish line, I thought she was faltering. "Some kid said that Santa died a long time ago. No one's that fast, and Santa's not G_d. A lot of the kids (even Christian kids) are saying he doesn't exist."

But in the end, wishful thinking won out. She decided that Santa "...must be a ghost. That's how he does it." Of course that would explain everything, I guess. There's no corporal time limit on how long you can do the job, no limit on how fast you can get around the world, etc. I guess I never considered that the "Spirit of Christmas" might actually refer to old Santa himself!

As for Buddy Boy, he came downstairs yesterday and announced to Liz that he "...was going to make a New Year's Revolution". "I think the word you want is 'resolution', dear." "Oh, yeah. A New Year's Resolution. I'm going to be nicer to Sweet Pea this year (he's actually overall nicer to her than she is to him). [he paused] I've got another resolution. I'm going to help Sweet Pea be nicer to me, too."

If only the world worked that way.

Happy New Year to one and all! This last one has been a bit tough (lots going on behind the scenes and all), but I'm hopeful that the coming one will be better. At least we all made it through 2010 in one piece, and neither kid got kicked out of school!