autism

Helping Billy Inherit the Earth

Child holding the earth, olly, Shutterstock.com

Child holding the earth, olly, Shutterstock.com

I try to teach in the present. With Billy, though, I found myself thinking about the future. Will middle school be a challenge for him? Will he be an outcast in high school? Or a target for bullies?

I wondered what contributions he might make to society as an adult. Would he start a revolution in the art world?

If his peers constantly slap their hands down and say there's no room for him, how will he react? Will he become a part of what author Alexandra Robbins calls the "cafeteria fringe, those people who are not a part of the school's or society's in-crowd? Because he seems different, will he be labeled geek, nerd or weirdo?

As a teacher I want to help him overcome. But what can I do?

Leo and the Special Olympics

Child in superhero suit, olly / Shutterstock.com

Child in superhero suit, olly / Shutterstock.com

Every morning, Leo's smile brightens the cafeteria at my elementary school. He hobbles in, holding his teacher's hand. His eyes squint at the bright lights. He squirms at loud noises. And always, he smiles.

"Good morning, Leo," I say as I rub his cheek and look into his eyes. He looks back into my eyes for a split second, then gazes off into his own world. That one-second look is his way to say good morning. Leo is a non-verbal first-grader. He is a student in our K-2 trainable mentally disabled class. He comes to us with Down Syndrome, autism, and wonder.

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