As we head into a new school year, I wanted to reshare something I wrote last year at the beginning of the school year.
It has been a very common experience for us, as an autism family and I’m sure for many other families that are a little different like ours.
When Tyson and I are walking into the school, and we encounter our peers, we often see that you do not know how to engage with us. Here is what these encounters look like for us:
Parent: Do you know that little boy?
Child: Yes, that’s Tyson.
Parent: Say hi!
Child: He has Autism. He doesn’t talk.
Parent: *deer caught in headlights*
Most are probably hoping that I didn’t hear.
But I already know Tyson has Autism! No surprise there!
So what is the right thing to say, dear parents caught in Autism headlights?
For some reason because Tyson is nonverbal, people also think he can not hear or understand.
I get that this can be hard or confusing for kids. They say hi, but he doesn’t say hi back.
So, before we all get back to the school drop-offs, and the trips to the playground after supper to soak up the last minutes of summer, can I make a suggestion? Let’s have a conversation with our children or students, explaining that just because someone doesn’t speak, that doesn’t mean they cannot hear or understand.
Just last week, we were at the playground and Tyson went running toward the swings. One little girl told her friends he has Autism, but she did not acknowledge him or speak to him. This has happened so many times to us when out in the community.
We are lucky that we have encountered very few people who are mean to Tyson.
But we have also encountered very few who are inclusive.
A simple “Hi” can mean so much.
If you want to work toward better inclusion, if you want to help us feel less alone, if you want Tyson to be treated just like any other kid, “Hi” is a great place to start!
The attitude of inclusion is contagious, and I know you can help it catch on!
One thought on “Just Say Hi!”
You’re right. I wish more people in general wouldn’t just assume that if someone can’t speak (or can’t speak in that moent, or that situation) that they “must be” deaf. It drives me absolutely crazy when people make that assumption when I’m using AAC. It makes it so much harder to understand them when they insist on writing whatever their question is, without asking whether or not that’s what I prefer. With my language processing issues, my language processing issues, and all the effort it takes me to interact in many situations, it’s so much harder to sustain my attention on the situation!
Luckily, my old AAC device came with a phrase “My hearing is fine. You can speak normally”, which I’ve migrated over to my new apps on my new devices for use in such situations! (When I can find that phrase anyways). One time I used it, the health administration professional in question became extremely embarrassed that she’d assumed otherwise, and the still remembered me when I came next for my appointment! So that was a bonus!
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