By Kodey Toney
All Shook Up
Last week Konner sat in class fidgeting a little. He would jerk sporadically and let out a yelp or scream every once in a while (I wasn't there, but was told so by my wife).
These are things that we have become somewhat comfortable with, and have worked with him to stop. However, when he gets over-stimulated he will do these things in frustration.
His teacher last year had some trouble getting used to it (if you can get used to that), but explained to us that for the first couple weeks or so it was something that scared her a little. She explained to me once that as she had her back to the class writing on the board, Konner would let out a loud noise and she felt like she had been shot. This is completely understandable, and yet he really can't help this impulsive nature.
Most students in Konner's grade have been with him since head start and have come to understand his disorder and the quirks that are attached. Many of them have taken him under their wing and know how to help out if he gets frustrated. For this we are blessed.
However, for many reasons, the school district had seen a huge increase in enrollment this fall. That means many new faces who have never met Konner or understand autism and the issues that come along with a neurological disorder.
So, you can imagine the surprise of the new little girl who sat in front of Konner in class last week as he began to get irritated. He started to jerk around and grunt loudly. As he did the little girl turned to see what was wrong. He continued and she felt uncomfortable. She said something to the affect, "He's kind of weird." Needless to say my wife and the counselor are going to have a meeting this week to try to explain autism to the new kids, and maybe have a refresher course for the others.
We have never tried to hide the fact that Konner has autism, but we don't try to make a big deal out if it either. However, I feel like it is something they need to know.
So, how do you explain this to children? Here are my suggestions.
Don't start with what is "wrong" or "different" with him. Always lead with positives. Tell what they can do, what they're good at, and what they like.
This is how I would begin.
"Konner is very smart. He is really good at math and reading. He is also really good at using computers and the iPad. He likes Thomas the Train, RoBlox, and Minecraft. Do any of you guys like those things?"
Then I would try to explain that everyone is different. Some people have blonde hair, some black, some brown, and some red. Some people wear glasses, some may need hearing aids, and some even need a wheel chair to move around. However we are all alike in many ways.
Konner is really good at that other stuff, but he has problems with his senses. He processes information different than most. Sometimes it takes longer for him to understand what people ask him.
Bright lights and loud noises can really bother him. Changes in the way the classroom smells or the way his tags in his clothes rub against him can feel painful to him.
When he gets uncomfortable and irritated he tends to have outbursts.
These are just a few ways I would get started and let them ask questions. It is important for them to understand and try to help the child. You want the kids to help more than the teachers and aides. This makes them feel important, and helps your child socialize. The kids in the class will learn to accept people with disabilities, and they may just find a lifelong friend too.