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Presentation to Class

Remember last year when I was to do this? It finally happened. Ryan was moved to a new school and to put it mildly, he was not happy about it. Some kid called him a whiner and he spent the entire evening crying and saying he did not want to go back because he is different. It was enough to motivate Karen, his mother. Nothing like your heart breaking to motivate you. So she called me and asked if I would talk to his class as she was afraid she would start crying. I wrote the speech below and ran it by her and she thought it was great. So we get to the school and the first thing I said was that Ryan is a new kid to this school and asked if they knew who he is. One boy piped up and said yes, he is a whiner. Hmmmmm, guess we know who the culprit is now. LOL The kids were terrific. Very responsive, lots of questions and Ryan stories. He said this, do you know where it came from, sometimes he does this do you know why etc. It was great. The teacher and my daughter were very impressed with my speech and how I handled the kids. He has 2 little champions in the school. An adorable little blonde girl that knew him from his other school and a sweet little boy that sits next to him. They had already been helping him out. The teacher said that she learned a lot that she did not know from me. She enthusiatically asked to borrow the 2 books I took and is willing to incorporate a helper program in the class along with daily social skills games with other children. I explained how these things will benefit ALL the kids. I volunteered to talk to the teachers also. We will see. We are feeling really good about his future in this school. It is a very small school, only one class per grade so every teacher will end up with him at some point. Next up is his IEP..ugh! But I really feel at this point that it will be a good one. Oh, they moved his aide with him for transition but will slowly be fading her out as he is way to dependent on her. Judy loves Ryan but is way more a gramma to him than an aide. They have another aide at that school so they will have Judy in the morning and the other one in the afternoon until they can fade Judy completely. Thanks for everyone's help on this. Any other classroom suggestions will be welcomed.

Today we are going to talk about Ryan but first I have some questions for you.

Every kid is different. They look different, like different things, act differently in the same situations. How are you different?

Who was born in a different state or country?

Who likes math?

Who likes to play soccer?

Who likes to ride scooters?

Everyone has special talents and strengths. Sometimes we envy people that can do things we can’t. But they may envy you for what you can do easily that they can’t.

What are your strengths or talents?

Ryan is different too. In many ways he is the same as you. He is a kid just like you.

Some things he likes are:

Playing with trains
Watching movies
Watching cartoons
Riding his scooter
Going to the beach
Video games

One way he is different is that he is autistic. He was born that way. What it means is that he has trouble with some things that you may not. Language is one of them. Sometimes he gets pronouns mixed up and will call a boy a she or a girl a he. Sometimes he talks out loud repeating things he has heard. This is his way of processing information. His brain works very fast and in order to slow it down he will talk out loud.

Autism also means that he has sensory issues. This can mean too much noise bothers him more than it might you. Sometimes it means textures or tastes or smells bother him. When too many things are happening at one time, you will see him flap his arms or bounce on his toes or maybe even spin. This is how he calms himself down. He has to do this, it is not a choice for him.

What ways do you have to calm yourself when you are anxious or afraid?

Who taps their pencil?
Who whistles or hums?
Who rocks themselves to sleep?
Who is a leg bouncer or shaker?
Who plays with their hair, twirling it around their finger?

Another thing about autism is that it means he cannot pick up social cues from watching others. You probably have learned how not to act by seeing someone get in trouble for something they did and you decide not to do that thing. Ryan can’t do that. But that does not mean he can’t learn. You can use your words to tell Ryan what he can do instead. You must be specific though. Don’t say “Don’t do that”, Say “Ryan, it is against the rules to leave the class without asking. Go to the teacher and say “Teacher, can I get a drink?”

Autistic people do not understand figures of speech. The words you use are exactly what they say. This is called literal thinking. Phrases like “Let’s hit the road” or “straighten up” mean different things to him. You may understand that “hit the road” mean to get going but he would wonder why he is supposed to actually hit the road. If you say “oh, I ate too much. I think I’m going to explode”, he will be fearful that you really are going to explode. We use so many of these phrases that we seldom think about them but for him, it is like speaking a foreign language that he can’t understand. Because of this, he does not understand teasing or joking. Let’s say you make a mistake doing something. If you say “Oh man, I can’t believe I just did that. I’m so stupid”, he will believe that you are stupid because you said so. You can easily explain to him that you don’t really think you are stupid but that you are just mad at yourself for making a mistake.

Ryan wants to have friends and wants to play with others. What he can’t do is initiate play. You also need to tell him what you want him to do.

If you ask him if he wants to play he most likely will say “Sure” and will follow you but then he will stand there and wait for you to tell him how to play. He just needs a little more help than you might.

One more really important thing is that he is very sensitive and gets his feelings hurt. If you call him names, he will come home and cry and then he is afraid to come back to school for fear someone will hurt him again. I know you have all had your feelings hurt at sometime in your life and I know none of you liked it. Ryan cannot help being autistic. He will always be autistic. You can help yourself from hurting other peoples feelings. If you don’t like it, why would he? Remember, he is a kid first, autistic second. He is more like you than different from you.

The more you learn about Ryan, the more you will like him. He is a good kid with lots of good things to share. This is all about learning to accept everyone for who they are and accepting that differences are good not bad. You don’t want people to dislike you because you have brown hair or like the color blue or because you don’t like to swim. Those are all ok and it’s ok to be different.

[Thank you Lorelie for allowing me to use this on my site.]

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