The first obvious autistic person I’ve interacted with was this boy – let’s call him “Joe”.
He was one of the students I was teaching more than a decade ago (I no longer teach), he was back then – 11 or 12 years old.
He shared the class with two other boys, they were really friendly and kind, they sometimes teased Joe but it did not develop into a bully that I know of and I saw them playing game together at times and I was very happy about it.
Joe couldn’t respond when he was “blamed” like when other boys said “Because you did…” or “you are being annoying”, Joe panicked, and screamed “Why me!” and “Because… because…” and no more words came out, he only cried out uncontrollably, it seemed like his brain didn’t process the logics he wanted to deliver.
Whenever there was a tension between the boys and Joe, I threw a question at Pokemon loving Joe – “What’s your current favourite pokemon, Joe?”.
The moment I asked him about Pokemon, he always turned to me with a huge smile on his face whatever the mental state he was in, and he stuttered a lot but he made a passionate speech about his favourite pokemon for minutes.
I couldn’t continue with the talk for long, we were supposed to be studying so I’d respond
“Yeah, I loved Pokemon when I was little and I had a lot like you, too – but I don’t recognise the new ones you guys have, Joe, can you do the next question?”
He turned straight back to his textbook with a great loud “Yes!” and start writing down his answers. It is actually hard to take care of both side of boys all at once but as for Joe, I knew that all I could give him was presentation of my acceptance for – not as far as his entire existence or personality as we don’t spend that much time together but at least his passion, motivation, his benevolence, and the rights and wrongs that he did, especially the right if he got any done, and what I’d strived to do was to keep his mental state positive, by telling him he was right for doing this while also wrong for doing this, so he can fix his behaviour in this way so everybody will be happy, including him.
When someone is autistic, it is extremely important to let them know what they did wrong but they were at the same time right for the things they have done, for example, if Joe let other boys use his game, and the boys teased him for the name of the Pokemon Joe’d named, Joe would most likely panic, and might even punch the boys – I’d say to Joe, it’s very kind and generous of him to let others use his belonging especially when it’s such an important thing to him, not many can do that (His right), but physically hurting another person is not the right thing to do (His wrong), so you should apologise to them for hurting them, at the same time, I want the boys to say thank you to Joe for lending the game.
That way they know what to fix, what to work on, what to improve – “What to do”. If you yell at them “Why do you do that to your friends!” and that’s all, they would most likely panic as they don’t know how to react or how to show their regret or apology, or even process logics to make any excuses.
His mother came to pick him up everyday after lesson, always looked down and hid her face with hair and stepped back when I tried to speak to her.
I obviously didn’t have an intention to tell her what he did wrong in the classroom unless he physically hurt anybody, destroyed classroom equipments or he got injured, I most of the time praised that he worked hard (he does homework punctually, and he is not a dumb kid, he can do work if he puts his mind to it), and I simply reported what we did during the lesson.
When I complimented anything about him, she seemed to smile a little bit but soon turned to rush back home with Joe.
I only spent a few hours every week with Joe but she’s been with him since his birth and everyday, I can feel how she fears the reaction of other people and she must have experienced a lot in that way, I am not going to tell her not to be scared of me, but all I was more than determined to do was always keep the right and wrong separated, and never let his autism influence on the way I look at or evaluate actions, behaviours and accomplishment of Joe.
When I was speaking about “homework” with my mother recently, I told her
“Some kids might come across ‘question’ or ‘curiosity’ why they have to do homework everyday, they already understood everything, or some may not even understand anything and they can’t answer the questions of the homework.
You can explain to them that homeworks are not for getting the high score, but it’s to learn and gain the skills that are needed when they grow up namely – ‘do task everyday at home’ for work, or for academic reasons, so getting a little work done at home everyday is the point, and you don’t need to get a perfect score for the homework”.
She said to me “If you can explain such things, maybe you will make a good teacher”.
Well, that’s her point, but how many students would question genuinely – why on earth they do homework everyday. Joe’s classmates would have no questions on that and gave me their homework everyday, I don’t know how Joe was educated at home but I don’t even think Joe had that question in his mind.
Also – I am aware that I am an extremist, my philosophy, logics and determinations and explanations tend to be quite extreme, and way too logical at times, and I am a little scared of influencing, flexible minded, free children with my ideas and opinions.
If it’s a grown up adult who can select and choose the information to learn, and whether or not to let that influence their opinion, if they can say “That’s good point, but that’s just you, I will believe my opinion”, I can openly speak to them about my opinion, but when it’s little child, they might instantly believe everything I say and might even think that way for a very long time.
I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do to influence young children to only pursue logically established amoral justice and righteousness, when they have a long standing future where they need to be flexible and adjustable, should I step in and narrow their perspective in any way?
As much as we are logical, we are also compassionate, back then I had an unconditional compassion and affection for all my students, it’s maybe because the students were all small children and I don’t know if I would do the same for adult students though.
There is this teacher with Asperger’s Syndrome that I know and she seems to have no problems with educating the children so I don’t think it’s a bad idea in anyway but
I don’t consider myself a good educator or a director, I guess I’d much rather prefer being educated forever and pursue the ultimate right that I can believe.