Monday, September 8, 2008

Talking to Tristan's Class about Autism

First grade began last week for Tristan and he is needing breaks through out the day to decompress from the increased classroom work. In kindergarten most of the day was spent playing with less structure and this year first grade has much more structure and less playing. Luckily, Tristan looped with the same teacher and students as last year, so the usually six months of adjustment is lessened.

However the workload has been difficult to adjust to for Tristan and Mr. Cody has altered Tristan's schedule to include some in the classroom break times after he completes his work that include building with Legos, drawing, and other quiet activities that he can do at the "break desk". Some of Tristan's classmates were protesting to Tristan's breaks and so, Mrs. Cody asked if I could come in talk to the class about Tristan.

Of course I was excited to have the opportunity to discuss our story and shed some light on differences we all face whether you have different skin color, or eye color, or learning style. I decided to add some science to the discussion and I brought in a picture of the brain and of the intestines.

Tristan's classmates had thoughtful questions and some not so political correct ones too like "Is Tristan stupid?" which turned into a great discussion about learning differences just like different color eyes.

While we walked to school the morning of our talk, Tristan and I chatted about what he needed his friends to know about him. I used probing questions like "when your stomach hurts what can you friends do?" Or "when your head gets to busy (sensory overload) what do you need?"

Even though Tristan had a difficult time focusing on the discussion (my computer was there and he wanted everyone to watch a movie), he did get the opportunity to tell his friends what he needed from them and vice-versa.

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