Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Identity, Neurodiversity, Parenting, Teaching

We Know Our Own: How Being Steeped in Autistic Culture Can Help You (Or Your Child) to Finally Feel Better!

A parent of a former student called me to check in.  He’s had a hard time since he left.  I agreed to talk to the psychologist about our experiences with him.

I can’t reveal too much (as usual!) about the details, but suffice it to say, if I believed in functional labels (high-functioning/low-functioning), I would say, absolutely, that he was a “high-functioning” Autistic (for new people to the site, I DO NOT BELIEVE in these labels, but I will say he is very skilled at masking; the labels I only mention to serve a point as to how people who others believe are “high functioning” can be overlooked even though there is no such thing as “high functioning”).  He’s been skilled at masking his Autism since he was in a tiny school until this year, and as the demands of moving into the tween years get harder, he’s struggling in and out of school.  He’s one of those problematic types who is both academically gifted and Disabled, which the public schools have historically had a heck of a time with.

The psychologist was not impressed with my observations.  I suspect she will discount them, not recognizing what it looks like to be an Autistic who does not have “Educational Autism” (fancy language in schools for “too good at school to get help”).  Without a corresponding academic struggle, he will not be diagnosed and they will continue to wonder what’s “wrong” with him.

But I know him.  I knew him last year, and I also knew that his mom wanted him to stay with us this year since she knew he was finally, finally making progress both academically and socially.  He struggled at school for years not because he didn’t know all the things but because he lacked the executive function to turn materials in, or the impulse control to do what he was told.

He made so much progress he was three years ahead on standardized tests by the time I was done with him…in less than a year.

And yes, we were actually able to measure him on standardized tests; I’d reduced the stress enough that he was taking them seriously and able to focus on them.

Lest you think I’m bragging about being a miracle worker, let’s be perfectly clear: I didn’t DO anything…but I let him be himself and reduced his stress levels.  I removed the meaningless hoops of homework for the sake of homework and requiring my kids to sit in a desk, not move, and not talk.  And I listened to him, and argued and debated with him.

I treated him like a human being.

Continue reading “We Know Our Own: How Being Steeped in Autistic Culture Can Help You (Or Your Child) to Finally Feel Better!”

Posted in Catholic education, Self-Care, Teaching

Neurodiversopia: A School Where We Can Be Ourselves

When you’re in the middle of just running your school and living your life (and often fighting for the opportunity for your school to stay open), you forget sometimes to appreciate what you have.

I administrate and sometimes teach in a tiny Catholic school and my kids are in, currently, a one-room schoolhouse configuration, from Kindergarten through 8th grade.  There aren’t many of them, and they learn together and separately, on their own work, at their own paces.

At times, when people come to my school, such as the guy who comes to read the gas meter, he asks whether school is open.  Oh, it’s open.  They’re just upstairs and not that loud.

The thing of it is, it’s not that quiet ever.  My kids love to run and jump and play like everyone else.  My girls shriek, and I have a student who struggles with modulating her voice.  They can be very loud.

But it’s not really all that loud as compared to a school with mostly neurotypicals.  As it happens, I maybe have one or two neurotypical students, I think, and that’s not because I chose to have them; those are the kids who stayed after I became principal.  And the kid I think is neurotypical is a sibling of one or more Neurodivergent siblings, so he is growing aware of how to live Neurodivergently.

Anyway, we went to a very, very large Mass this past week, and it involved people from all over.  It’s helpful for young Catholics to see they are not alone in a highly secular world, so on a theoretical level, I was glad to go.

In practice, it was very overwhelming.  Here’s what happened, and what we learned from it.

Continue reading “Neurodiversopia: A School Where We Can Be Ourselves”

Posted in Advocacy, Disability in Education, Teaching

How (Not) to Discuss Disability in 2016 (or 2017, or…)

This happened within about two weeks of my return to teaching last year.  Given all of the flak I get for talking about taking Disabled students now that I’m a principal, I imagine this blog to be still relevant.  In interacting with the one group dedicated to inclusive education in Catholic schools on Facebook which is only run by parents and insists on person-first language and fills my feed with inspiration-porn…very little has changed.

So, let’s explore how NOT to discuss Disability in Catholic Education (or in any educational or religious circles)…

Continue reading “How (Not) to Discuss Disability in 2016 (or 2017, or…)”