I’ve already told you that Bud’s teacher, Ms. Walker, and his paraprofessional, Mrs. Nee, are incredible. But I haven’t come close to telling you how incredible they really are – because, really, until two weeks ago, I didn’t know. We’d been talking about trying to find a time to meet for a regular, non-IEP, non-crisis-management parent-teacher conference, and two weeks ago Ms. Walker and Mrs. Nee found themselves with an open afternoon. They e-mailed me to see if I was free, and I was, so we planned on getting together for a quick meeting.
Two hours (and many laughs and a few tears) later, I left the meeting with my head spinning. These women are REMARKABLE. Their teamwork is remarkable. Their classroom is remarkable. Their stories are remarkable. Their understanding of and love for my son is remarkable. And the progress that Bud has made with them is truly remarkable. I spent large portions of our meeting saying things like “this is incredible” and “you need to present this at a national conference” and “you guys should write a BOOK!” They are that good.
And in the midst of their reports on Bud’s significant progress and on their insights, their strategies, and their incredible year of highs and lows, they presented me with an opportunity. It started as a story:
Ms. Walker had been reading a book to the class while Mrs. Nee and Bud were out of the classroom. The book, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, is about a boy with ADHD and is written in the first person, from Joey’s point of view. They had gotten to a section of the book in which Joey talks about taking medication. Ms. Walker stopped reading to have a brief discussion about what it means to take medication – explaining that some medications fix things and that other medications just make symptoms more manageable.
A child raised her hand. “But,” she asked, “there isn’t a medication that can make Bud different, is there?”
Her brave and heartfelt question opened a floodgate from her peers: Bud has autism, right? But what is autism? Will Bud ever be like the rest of us?
Ms. Walker was caught off guard; she hadn’t anticipated this turn in the conversation. She didn’t feel prepared to answer their questions, but she knew that their questions were important ones and that honoring them could lead to extraordinary understanding. They were questions whose answers could make a difference in everyone’s life. So she suggested a solution to the children: maybe Bud’s mom would be willing to come in and answer some of your questions. The children were enthusiastic about the idea.
At that point in the story, Ms. Walker handed me a stack of index cards filled with ten-year-old scrawl. “I told the kids to write down any questions they had, and I said I would ask you if you’d be willing to come in. I told them they could ask anything at all, and you would decide if anything was too private to share.”
I started flipping through the cards. They blew me away.
What is autisim
Why does he move in circles
Do you know all the Diffrent ways Bud learns?
How come nose bother Bud so much
Why Dose Bud repet so many lines from TV shows or movies?
Why Dose Bud Have to move so much?
– What disability does Bud have?
– Please explain.
– Was he born this way?
– How did it happen?
– What goes on in Bud’s head?
– Why does he repeat things?
– Why does he run in circles?
– How can I help?
– How come Bud gets attatched to people and then always wants to be with that person?
– Does Bud know he’s different?
– Why does Bud have Awesome hearing?
1. When Bud grows up will he be like us or will he be like he is now?
2. Why can’t he say stuff in full sentenses like when he keeps saying the same word in one sentens?
3. Everybody thinks he’s much different then us. Is he reely much different?
4. Why is he like that? Is that the way he was born?
5. does he know that hes different from us.
Why does Bud have such sensitive hearing?
How do you deal with Autisum?
How does Bud have such great humor sometimes?
Why does Bud repeat things that are on TV? Why doesn’t Bud not like to be with oter kids? And how can I be a person Bud would like to hang out with? Please anwser. (PS. Does Bud know that hes diferent?)
1. What is otizim?
2. Does it help you?
3. Was Bud born with Otizim?
4. Is Otizim suff you need to take meds?
Why does Bud repeat things?
Why does the fire alarm noise scare him?
What is atisum?
How can I help Bud not worry about things.
Why is Bud scard of loud noises.
Why does Bud move in circles?
Why does Bud always miss you.
Does Bud know that he is different from some other people.
– How different is Bud from us?
– What are Bud’s conditions?
– What was Bud born with?
– How dose Bud’s brain work?
1. how does Bud think?
2. What is Why does he need Movement breaks?
3 Wyy Why does loud noises bother him?
4 Why does he repeat things?
5 How can I help?
6 Does he know he’s diffrent?
My Questin are
1. What is otisem
2. What dose Bud thinck like
3. Dose Bud have otisem
4. Why dose Bud hate loud noses
thease are the questins I want to know if these questins are parsin that is fine I don’t mind
5 How can help Bud
6 dose Bud Hate thunder storms
7 dose Bud know He’s diffrent
Dear Mrs. NOS.
Bud is funny, exciting, and a REALLY good friend
1) how does he remember things from really long times ago?
2) Why does he walk in circles and murmer to himself?
3) What do pills help him do?
4) What can I do to be a better friend to Bud?
5) is it always quiet in your house just for Bud?
6) Why does he hate it so much when it’s loud?
I didn’t take a moment to think about it. “Yes,” I said. “I would love to come in and talk with the class.” We decided that we’d find a time when Bud would not be there, and that we’d offer it as an option to the kids – they could opt to eat their lunches in the classroom with me, or skip the presentation and have a regular lunch period in the cafeteria. I told Ms. Walker and Mrs. Nee that even if just one child stayed behind, I would consider it time well spent. Ms. Walker assured me that more than one child would opt to stay. “These index cards were optional,” she said. “They wanted to fill them out.”
I’ve spent the last two weeks mulling over the children’s questions, developing analogies, and thinking of examples that they’ll be able to relate to their own lives. I keep thinking about this comment, which arrived a couple of months ago, and about the way that a well-placed conversation might have made a difference in the life of the commenter and the children he encountered. I keep thinking, especially, about particular questions that Bud’s classmates asked:
How can I help Bud not worry about things?
How can I be a person Bud would like to hang out with?
What can I do to be a better friend to Bud?
How can I help Bud?
How can I help?
How can I help?
I love these children. I love these teachers. I love that I have been given this extraordinary opportunity.
Mom-NOS’s Opportunity, Possibility, and Community, the first entry in a series for Mondays at Shift Journal, was first published at MOM – Not Otherwise Specified and appears here under the terms of this Creative Commons License.
[image: Don Williams, Wikimedia Commons]