I've been asked to create a single link to the posts that describe my visit to Bud's classroom, so that it will be easier for people to pass it on to others. I'm flattered by the request and happy to oblige. Here it is.
First, it's important to recognize the incredible work that Ms. Walker, the classroom teacher, and Mrs. Nee, the classroom paraprofessional, have done this year. As I wrote to Ms. Walker this week, "Thank you for the credit you are so eager to hand over to me, but REALLY - this is not the result of one hour-long conversation. This is the result of seven months full of planting seeds and seizing teachable moments and providing opportunities and recognizing that teaching for life is more important than teaching to the test."
They started their work at the very beginning of the school year, celebrating Bud's tenth birthday in an extraordinary way.
Their work continued throughout the year, and they explained their approach to me in a conference last month. At that time, they asked if I'd be willing to meet with Bud's classmates and gave me a stack of questions that the children had submitted for me.
My meeting with the class was so extraordinary that it was hard to find the words to describe it. So, instead, I decided to recount the experience, one question at a time. Those questions were:
What is autism?
Why does Bud repeat things from TV?
Why does Bud say the same things over and over?
Why does Bud run in circles? Why does he need movement breaks?
Why do noises bother Bud?
Why does Bud miss his mom so much? Why does he get really attached to people and want to be with them all the time?
How can I be a better friend to Bud? How can I be a person Bud would like to hang out with?
Will Bud always be this way?
Does Bud know he's different?
How can I help?
Later that afternoon, Ms. Walker asked the children to reflect on the conversation. Their responses were extraordinary.
The magic is still unfolding in the classroom, and I imagine there will be further posts in the coming weeks and months. I will add links to them on this page. This link: http://bit.ly/9FLDc3 will lead people here. Thanks for sharing it.
4/2/10: Edited to add this follow up on the class response to World Autism Awareness Day.