Last year I began working in a kindergarten class as a one-on- one aid for an autistic student making the leap to the “typical” classroom. It was a great learning experience for all involved: ME, my student, the other kindergartners, and the teacher.
It was also a blessing to have this job since my son attends school at the same facility in a special day class.
Now, as I was leaving one day– Jack in hand, navigating amidst the throngs of parents, students, teachers, and ankle biters galore, one of the children in my kindergarten class asked:
I stopped dead in my tracks for a moment.
THIS could be a great time to educate a young curious mind
THIS could be a great introduction of special needs to this student
THIS could be an “Aha!,” teachable moment for a child to come to a better understanding of the world around them.
Let’s face it.
Jack and I were having none of it.
Like salmon swimming upstream, once he is on a mission to go someplace, we must GO.
We were in a mass of humanity all hell bent on getting outta school.
So I looked at this adorable little cherub and said, quite sweetly, “Nothing”.
And before you pull me up short for telling a little white lie– DON’T. I told the absolute truth….. as I saw it.
You see, despite his lopsided gait, his waving his fingers to see shadows, and his chanting of a little song that goes ” a nu anu a nu anu a nu anu” — there was NOTHING “wrong” with him at that moment.
He was just like any other kid wanting to go home and watch cartoons. Or play in the yard.
And I went home and I stewed. And I thought. And I pondered.
How does one really answer that question and make it fair to ALL involved?
When a five year old asks……When a coworker asks…..when a random person in the check out line asks…
The answer is both simple AND complex.
Is it enough to say “He’s autistic”?
I mean, the range of autism out there is mind boggling.
Should I add: “oh, he has about 30 tumor like growths on is brain”?-
THEN I have to explain that no….they are not cancerous, blah blah blah.
Do I bring up the brain damage from febrile seizures as an infant?!?!
WHERE does it end? Where does it begin?
How do you DEFINE a child like Jack?
He is NOT his medical charts.
He is NOT his diagnosis.
He is NOT the tubers that grow in his body.
He is Jack: A boy that loves to be outside on the “bounce-po-line”, who loves to watch bubbles and spinnings in the wind. Who likes to play with slinkys and thinks its the best fun to throw every single Lego in the house from one room to another.
He is a boy that delights in Elmo, Little Bill, Miss Spider and Maisy.
He is a prankster. He is a lover of shadows and light.
He is the benevolent tyrant that rules our home.
He is Jack.
And even though some things aren’t right with his health……
there is nothing wrong with him.