I have to send a shout-out to my school district and colleagues for their wonderful reception and response to my keynote address for our Student Services Training Day. I love presenting, and do so rather often – but today was different. It is different, and I suspect more difficult, to present to your friends and colleagues.
We brought the voices and experiences of Autistic adults into the room today by screening the film Vectors of Autism: A Documentary about Laura Nagle, and we were also given an illuminating glimpse into the perspective and experience of one future Autistic adult. Thank you, H, for sharing your presentation Dear Teacher: A Letter from H with this group of educators! You did a fabulous job!
Thank you to these educators for being open to the message that we consider a shift in paradigm… so that those with the social-cognitive strength are doing the work to accommodate students with diverse learning needs – rather than expecting those with the challenges to do all the changing to ‘fit’ the system. There is an imbalance here… and today we were able to examine that… and I know we can work to build that social and communication ramp together!
Thank you to all who were present, for engaging with perspectives that honour students where they are at, and for your work to empower our student’s sense of agency, self-determination, and personhood, and to support them in building their advocacy skill.
Thank you for sharing a positive vision of inclusive practices. Your nods of ascension were evident at the notion that we should not be punishing students for their disability or challenges, and that there is merit in reframing response to behaviour as response to communication. Today we shared the vision that we can accept our students for who they are in the moment, and then move on and build skills from there.
Thank you for your tears, misty eyes, or heartfelt comments, all of which revealed how deeply you were moved during H’s presentation. I passed the comments on to H, as requested, and though he said little, I could see the pride shining in his eyes.
And the break-out sessions… those who spent the balance of our day with me discussing autism and perspectives of neurodiversity in greater depth… I must thank you as well.
Thank you for sharing the connections that you made today and for your appreciation of the messages and perspectives presented. I closed the keynote with this quote from Tim Gallwey… a message that I trust will resonate with many.
From my perspective, today was a win for neurodiversity, for our students, and for all us as educators. I am so excited and proud to be working with you to broaden our perspectives and share and deepen our understanding for our students and their experiences in our school system.
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2013)