Let’s Talk About It

It’s 2:35 pm on a Friday, you and your friends anxiously wait for the clock to hit 3 o’clock so you can go home and get you’re weekend started. You started the sixth grade two weeks ago at a brand new school. There are so many new kids and you are eager to make new friends. You already have plans with three different people this weekend. On Friday you’re going to Johnny’s house with a few other boys in your class to have a sleep over. You guys have secretly planned to sneak out and TP some fifth graders. Then on Saturday you are going paint balling with Andrew, his older brother and his friends. Finally, on Saturday night you are going to the movies with a large group of people. That new Finding Nemo movie just came out and you can’t wait to see it.

10.. 9.. 8.. 7.. 6.. 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1..

Finally 3 o’clock! You and the rest of your class quickly shuffle your books and binders in to your backpacks and race out of the door. As you wait for your carpool to pick you up, you chat with some of your friends about your plans this weekend. Your ride is here and you wave goodbye to your friends yelling “see you tonight!”

It’s just another normal weekend for you.

Another boy, Billy, sits in the corner of the classroom. He closely listens to you and your friends talk about your weekend plans only hoping to one day be invited. Another week goes by and Billy still isn’t invited to hangout with anyone. Billy knows that the boys aren’t being mean to him, but he does understand that he is being excluded. He just doesn’t understand why.

Billy has Autism Spectrum Disorder and will never have a normal life. People will always look at him different and never fully understand him. Billy communicates a little differently than most people and likes things to be in a very precise order. Eye contact makes him extremely uncomfortable and as a result he comes off as cold and standoffish. However, this couldn’t be farther from the true. The one thing Billy wants more than anything is to have a friend — anyone. Billy loves playing with his little brother and going to the park. So why won’t any of Billy’s classmates play with him?

Early this week a dad went to his son’s back to school night. He was so excited to see what his son was doing in school, that he spent more time taking pictures of things to show his wife than actually looking at them. When he got home he looked at a sheet his son filled out that listed his favorite things: books, food, TV shows, etc. One of the questions asked who some of their favorites friends were. His son’s response was “no one.”

This is something that many parents who have children with autism fear. That their child won’t fit in. That people won’t accept their child. That their child will be bullied.

It is extremely difficult for children with special needs to integrate into and feel accepted at normal schools. It isn’t necessarily because they are bullied, but because other children don’t know how to interact with them.

When this father talked to his son’s teachers about those two words — 
no one — the teacher’s suggestion was for the son to join some after school clubs. However, that doesn’t solve the problem. That doesn’t make kids accept him or interact with him. If only, it would perpetuate the feeling of isolation and loneliness.

The only way to solve this problem is to talk about it. Parent’s need to talk to their children at home about children with disabilities. It is important for people to understand that children with special needs aren’t that different than the rest of us and that they fully understand what is going on around them. Children with autism love to play, they love to watch movies, and they love the same things that other kids their age love. If other children understood this, and were able to look past the disability, we wouldn’t see news articles with those two heartbreaking words.

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