School is in session, and Ashna and William are back with more perspective on being autistic middle schoolers. They both decided quickly that the topic of adult support was one they wanted to address. Both comment on how it impacts friendships, a topic they addressed in their last collaboration. Research shows that effective peer support systems provide benefits for all parties involved. Peer supports that are more than just a "helpers" club can be difficult to build, but there are resources to help schools structure programs in meaningful ways, like the information provided by The Inclusive Schools Network and books like this one. We'll let William & Ashna take it from here.
The View From Here - On Needing a Paraeducator
The thing that turns off many kids from being my friend is the same person who gives voice to my thoughts. For teenagers to want to talk with me, they need to trust the middle aged woman holding my board. What eighth grader wants to talk about hot girls with someone who reminds them of their mom? Are you going to talk with women who were teenagers in the last millennium and are now all old enough to have kids your own age? Easier to try to act neurotypical for me than it is to get kids to want to share their crushes at school. Only effort i can manage is to let my aide have some feedback that in order to gain traction with the guys i may need to lose her and my voice at times. That sucks..No kid should have to choose between having friends and having a voice. That’s why my goal is to be independently typing in the near future. That's the best I can do.
Many hats my adult support team wears: Bane of my existence. Keeper of my voice. Getter of my assignments. Third wheel in my gossip. Biggest cheerleader. Sidekick. Giver of choices.
How many badass teenager ladies find themselves in my place? Forced to spend our days with someone we simultaneously need and don’t want, someone we love but wish we didn’t need. For many autistic girls like me, this duality defines our days. Getting my voice heard by others means giving up some freedom.
For me, my sidekicks at school are mainly paraeducators. They support my various needs in my classes. Such matters can be most useful. But their support of my social life is what makes things complicated. No one wants to gossip about cute boys when there is an adult around. Getting more sidekicks my own age keeps coming to the top of my list.
Friends supporting friends. Now that’s an idea that doesn’t suck. Hats off, grown ups. Time to let the teens play on my team.
William is a fourteen year old guy who communicates by spelling and is about to navigate the second year of mainstreamed education.
Ashna is an eighth grader in Maryland who cares about doing good talking points for autism and rapid prompting method.