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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On being noticed, or not

I read this article yesterday, and parts of it felt familiar to me, especially the eloping part. I could picture Janey at a carnival, just randomly running away from me. I would never be able to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

What most struck me, though, was the differences between how Janey is treated and how the young boy in the article is treated. I never feel Janey is ignored or seems invisible, at school or in general in the community. Sometimes she's noticed more than I wish she was, as she is making odd noises or acting in other unusual ways, but regardless, she isn't ignored. I was reflecting on why that might be the case, and came up with a few reasons.

One is her exceptional school. It's an inclusion school in a true sense. Janey is part of her class and the school. She is one of the students. This is demonstrated in a million big and small ways. I was reminded of this the other day, when I finally put a name with a face of the only boy in the class Janey talks about by name all the time. I was telling his grandfather about how much Janey loves him, and the little boy said "Janey repeats what the teachers say all the time" I held my breath a little to see what the boy's take on this was, and then he said "They say that means she's listening!" I felt so, so happy. The teachers had found a way to put a positive spin on echolalia, and to make it a trait that first graders are supposed to have! Another example of inclusion---her special ed teacher telling me about a day when Janey was dawdling at her work, which was doing a puzzle. I can just picture it---when Janey knows she has to do something she doesn't want to do, she can be incredibly slow! Then it was time to line up for recess, and Janey jumped up to line up, but the teacher sat her back down, along with other kids who hadn't finished their work, and told her she needed to do the puzzle first. She worked fast then! I loved that---she was held to the same standards as the other kids. The work was modified, the standards weren't. Nothing would set a kid apart like it seeming like they get special treatment!

Another reason Janey doesn't get ignored is probably just luck. She is a girl, when most kids with autism are boys. She stands out in that way. She also looks "regular". You would not know by looking at her that she is autistic, but once you see her in action, it's pretty obvious. That interests people, and they notice her. I don't like staring, but I don't mind attention to her. It gives me a chance to educate people a little. More and more, I tell people "she is autistic" I feel like that little moment of education is important. It puts a face to the news items on autism.

The other reason is probably just Janey. I think often about how autism isn't all of her. Her natural personality is a bit extroverted, or at least non-self-conscious. To my eternal astonishment, I have raised three extroverts, and three kids not afraid to perform, to dance, to sing, to stand out. I am the kind that usually strives to not be noticed, and they are not like that.

It scares me a little, Janey not being ignored. It's outside my comfort zone. But it's how she is, for better or worse, and it's something I hope I can make a positive trait.

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