Hear My Voice, Too.
This month, several REV students completed eighth grade and their first completely inclusive school experience. These students began participating in all general education classes with their same-age peers in sixth grade. Now, as they head to high school, a few have been reflecting back on the experience. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to hear their thoughts.
Before I went to middle school, estimate that I spent six years trying really hard not to be autistic. My sweet, eager teachers asked me to point here or do this, apparently assuming that we could ABA the autism out of my body. I learned how to point so well, but what good does pointing do when the only things to point at are mostly symbols that show a vocabulary even a three year old would outgrow in a month? But my intrepid mom knew in her heart how smart I was.
When lovely master trainer Judy Bailey trained me to type, I knew my world opened up. Rather than trying to fix me, she focused on asking me to work with autistic body to show how intelligent I truly am. Now I needed a school that saw what my mom and Judy did.
Starting in fifth grade hope crept into my life. We seemed to be convincing the school (that) autistic typers should actually be allowed the same education as every child who speaks. Sad isn't it that the notion of educating all kids with the presumption they all can learn is so radical that even now I have friends spending a fortune to litigate their way out of an autism self-contained classroom.
Little by little fifth grade woke my so bored brain with new types of learning but teachers still saw my autism as something to fix.
The next fall i entered sixth grade and got personal star amazing autism accepting teacher Lisa Mihalich and facilitator extraordinaire Alissa Margolis. At my new school all students started to see me as a smart student. When the teachers called on me no one thought special typing was anything outside the ordinary. Other kids spoke. I typed. No big deal.
What simply started at my home as a question answering method became a way of letting me access a real education. In these three years, I never imagined I would work to earn As in all my classes. Part of me still saw stupidity others projected onto my elementary years. But the incredible teachers saw my intelligence and supported me.
Now high school slips up and I'll do it all again. Show them I'm smart. Show them nonspeaking people have voices. Show them presuming competence pays off.
Ethan Tucker is a 15-year-old autistic student, heading to high school in Maryland.