It was incredible.
I met with Bud's class today at lunchtime. I was expecting it to go well. I was actually expecting it to be great. But, I'm telling you: IT. WAS. INCREDIBLE.
I can't even begin to describe how affirming it is to face a circle of children who have opted to stay at their desks for lunch and recess because they want to learn more about your child. This was a completely optional conversation for them, yet almost every child stayed. There were a few boys who chose to hold on to their recess time (and I have a hunch they are boys who NEED their recess time to make it through the rest of the school day), but even there - when they returned to class after recess and found there were still about ten minutes to go, they joined right in, asked questions, and seemed as interested as those who had been there all along.
And those who had been there all along? They were AMAZING. I'd prepared myself for some snickering. I'd prepared myself for some walls of coolness and some discomfort with difference. But the classroom today was completely void of attitude. There was plenty of laughter, but it was the laughter of recognition and understanding. There was plenty of laughing with, without a hint of laughing at.
I'd planned a presentation and I'd hoped for some conversation, but I had no idea how eager these children would be to interact. They were fully engaged, their hands flying in the air, their eyes shining, hoping for the opportunity to let me know how well they knew Bud, what they had seen, what they had wondered, what they already knew and understood. And as they spoke, I realized: they get him. They may not have known why he is the way he is, but they understand and they respect that he is the way he is.
Have I said it enough? I love these children.
I want to post more about the presentation itself, so that you can experience it as I did. I can't imagine trying to fit it all into a single post, because there is just too much to say, so I think I'll take it post-by-post, day-by-day. I structured the presentation around the questions the children had written, so over the next week or so, I will post a different question each day. And as you read, you'll have to imagine a room full of ten-year-olds, their heads bobbing, their hands raising, and their understanding growing.
On deck for tomorrow: Question #1 - What is autism?