It’s who I am…

For the Year 6 unit on social inequities,  Max and Emmit chose to inquire into Autism and the way Autistic people are treated. You’ll need to read these moving reflections by the boys (published with their permission) to appreciate what it meant in this particular context…

Max:

When the unit began, I was thinking of doing my exhibition on lack of water in India, but then one day a guest speaker came to the school and they talked about Aspergers, saying it was a disability. Being an Aspergian myself,  I decided to raise awareness about how Aspergers is not a disability, in fact in some cases, it is a gift.

I thought hard about a lot of questions I could use. At first, I was going to do kids that are bullied at school due to their Autism, but then I decided that a bigger problem in the Autistic world was the lack of access to jobs by Aspergians.

When I was looking for information it was hard find any real solid evidence such as graphs or statistics, people on the internet just wrote things like ‘Aspergians may sometimes have difficulties trying to find jobs’ but no real facts on the subject. I do not think this is very good, because I have no real facts to show anyone and I will just have to tell you my non-backed-up evidence like:

Some Aspergians are thought to be disabled because people sometimes put ads on TV or other types of media telling the public that Aspergers is a disability and makes the bearer ‘stupid’ or ‘weird’. Not only is this not true, but it is the complete opposite of the truth. Some Aspergians excel way beyond ‘normal’ people.

If I had any solid evidence I would put it all in this recount, but unfortunately, I don’t. This probably frustrates me as much as you, but there is nothing I can do. Thank you for listening though.

Emmit:

For my inquiry, I had to choose a social inequity and take action on it.  I chose autistic inequities. This affects me as one of my best friends, Max, who is also my research partner, has PDD-NOS, a form of high functioning Autism on the Autistic spectrum scale.  We would like to take action so Max and other people like him don’t face prejudice and discrimination, when really they are normal good people, capable of doing great things.

There are many problems and inequities regarding Autistic people. With the right support services in place, all autistic people are capable of living meaningful and fulfilling lives. However, negative media coverage and deliberate pity campaigning have created the public opinion that autism is a ‘tragedy that needs to be stopped’, and that people with Autism have no hope of achieving anything.  Unfortunately, the media, shows kids throwing tantrums and parents complaining about their lives. It is rare to see Autistic kids on TV in normal activities and even rarer to see autistic adults.

What they don’t realize is that Autism is what makes them who they are, regarding character, beliefs, tastes, and many other traits, and that there is no ‘normal’ person behind the Autism. And thus by trying to cure them, you’re really just trying to destroy who they are.

This is very damaging to Autistic people and their image to other people, as it worsens social avoidance, pity, employment and workplace discrimination, and makes parents believe in false hopes of a cure instead of actually helping their kids. Money is spent on research in genetics, rather than proven support services and therapies.

Max and I aim to raise awareness about this issue and inform people that Autism is not a disease.

Let’s help them raise awareness.

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36 thoughts on “It’s who I am…

  1. Fantastic, great to see children being made aware of these issues and tackling them openly and personally – some really good writing from these two here, mature and thoughtful and I wish them luck in their project. Forgive my ignorance, but what is year 6 (age wise, curriculum)? Look forward to hopefully reading more from them,

    all the best

    Andrew

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  2. Dear Y 6 PYP students
    I am privileged to have access to your blog where we can share our passion about similar issues as well as the use of technology to connect people who are geographically separated. Your insightful posts about ‘Who I am.. ‘ were thought provoking not just for your peers but for those of us privileged to work with you and those like me who are able to read your posts.
    You commented on the labeling of those who have special and unique qualities as being uninformed and prejudiced. I agree with you but you have moved the debate to be about accepting who we all are with our strengths and challenges.
    I have taught many children with lots of different challenges : intellectual, physical and social and yet I probably learnt more from them about what it means to be human than they may have learnt from me. Together we learnt about life.
    I plan to share this blog at an IBO conference in NZ next week if that’s OK with you. What you share with your learning community and the world is truly awesome and I am thankful that you are a part of my world.
    All the best with your very important inquiry into something that truly matters.
    Rob

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  3. Brilliant writing – lovely to read such eloquent students’ work. I wonder if you or they have come across John Elder Robison’s blog (http://jerobison.blogspot.com/)? He is an Aspergian author who writes a blog on autism spectrum research as well as his own life and experiences. Definitely worth a look – it may give Max some more ‘concrete’ leads to follow. The book (Look Me In the Eye) is well worth reading, too.

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  4. What mature and thoughtful writing. It is very hard to believe that you are both only in Year 6. I think you have raised a very good point about the way the media portrays people with autism or Aspergers. We have several students at our school on the austism spectrum and I also have a family member with autism. I have learned such a lot from them, and certainly agree that people with autism should not be pigeon holed. They are all individuals with different skills, talents and personalities.

    Good luck with the rest of your inquiry. I look forward to reading more about it.

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  5. Wonderful insights from both Max and Emmit. People overlook so many strengths when they are hyper-focused on deficits. Thank you for sharing. I’ll be linking to your post from the Parent Educator Connection Facebook page.

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  6. Thanks for writing your blog. I love working with students with aspergers. I do not think of them as having a disability at all. I think of them as being gifted. They are wonderful people, have interesting ideas and I believe many inventions we have are the result of people with aspergers. We all have some form of aspergers spectrum but it is how we manage that makes us different. Keep on writing and thinking so the conversation continues. I enjoyed reading your blogs and will share them with other teachers.

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  7. Thanks for sharing boys. People need to be more aware of what it is like to have Asperger’s in order to understand those that have it. As an Aspergian and the friend of an Aspergian you are great spokespeople.

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  8. Edna, You have done it again. The last two hours reading your post from Max and Emmit along with the comments. Thank you Max and Emmit for sharing your thoughts. I too would welcome more data and research on austim and aspergers. Love Sarah’s comments. A must birdwalk for all to John Elder Robison: his book Look Me in the Eye, his blogspot, and his facebook page. I found informative information for all but especially to those of us in education. Would love to share, with your permission, this post on my blogspot Edna. So much to learn so little time!

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  9. Max and Emmit,
    I am touched beyond words by your candid reflections. I have worked with many kids, Aspergians, who have impressed me with their unique strengths and gifts. You bring up many important points about those who seek to “treat a disorder” instead of looking at the differences are rare strengths. I am inspired by your passion to open people’s eyes and create awareness and action. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  10. These personal enquiries are truly revelatory. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences and reflections here with us all. I wish all students would be so courageous as to reflect in such a way. I believe this really will raise awareness. I hope that it might lead to something more as it’s great when an enquiry develops further, making new connections and links. Thank you, a priveledge to read.

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  11. Dear Max and Emmit, This is a fascinating inquiry and a hard one to research as you said there was no solid evidence. When my son was at school he was sent on work experience to a wonderful school that had students that many other schools would not accept. Some had autism, some had Down Syndrome, some had other issues that had excluded them from schools. This experience transformed his life and after the end of his work experience he continued to act as a “big brother” to one of the boys at the school with autism, taking him out every weekend and generally doing things with him which may sound simple but actually made a big difference in his life: for example he took him on public transport, taught him to take turns playing card games and so on – simple things that he had never done before. My son is now at university and wants to become a teacher of teenagers with special needs. What you say is so true Emmit: we have to accept and support people the way they are and not try to change them into the way we want them to be.

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  12. Max and Emmit,

    Thanks so much for being who you are and writing this. Recently, an important family of my school went through the process of determining that their child, an 8 year-old, is a student with Aspergers. This child has struggled with fitting into school and making true friendships. Hearing the diagnosis of Autism for the mother was particularly difficult as she now knew that this was not something he was going to grow out of. She is now learning so much and understanding that this IS who her son is and all the amazing things he can do with his gift.

    I sent her this blog and she came to the school to thank me for sending it. Her son has so many talents and it is because of his Aspergers that he has these talents. He does have challenges that other students do not have but your words helped her to see the gifts that her child has and how this will help him in his lifetime.

    We need to do more of exactly what you are doing: be proud of who we are and see the strengths within each one of us. Thanks for sharing and for helping a family all the way over here in Canada!

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  13. Thank you everybody for your lovely comments. In case you are wondering, I am the Max who wrote the reflection. The inquiry unit recently ended, and many people enjoyed our exhibition (we were presenting it in exhibition form).

    Emmitt and I were thrilled when we read your comments on this blog. I would just like to ask everybody who is reading this blog a little favour, please spread awareness to your friends and family and ask them to tell their friends and family. After all, raising awareness is the biggest difference any one person can make.

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  14. Hi Max and Emmit. I appreciate your comments and informing us on what many capable people with Autism and Aspergers face in our society. I have to boys in my classroom this year that are also high functioning children with Autism. Both boys are outstanding students and have been great examples to me since starting our school year. I hope that your research does not end here, but that this is merely a start. I hope to hear more from you two in the future.

    Edna. What a great opportunity for you to work with these two young men. You have provided them now with an audience of peers to help them create awareness and help further their research. Thank you for posting this and inspiring us to perhaps do the same too.

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  15. Hello,

    I’m Max’s dad, and I have to say that my wife, myself and Max’s sister have never had anything less than the strongest pride in him. He’s always had a strong sense of social justice for a wide range of issues. He keenly pursues his school studies, and is passionate about piano playing, karate, film-buffery (is that a valid expression?) and being a loyal friend, always prepared to offer a helping hand to folks who need it (on occasion standing up for friends being bullied in the playground). In other words, he’s similar to a lot of other kids his age with or without the Aspergian label.

    It’s been so lovely to see the multitude of positive feedback on this site. I wish you all well.

    Cheers,
    Maurice.

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  16. Max and Emmit, your impassioned plea is exactly what the world needs to hear. Your thoughtful discussion and real-life example is touching and demonstrates that those who are autistic need to be viewed in light of the special gifts and talents that they possess instead of what “normal” traits they may be missing.

    Edna,
    Thank you for sharing these, it is amazing work and will touch many.

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  17. Thanks for this article My son had Aspergers. He died 3 years ago in a motorcycle accident. He was able to get a great job at a bearing manufacturing plant and was well liked by his boss and coworkers. He was a great kid. If people just took the time to look beyond the non-normalness they found a great person to be around who was smart funny and someone who could always be counted on . I know many ‘normal’ people who could not even begin to approach his great qualities.

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  18. Hi Edna. I know you just think, all you’ve done is post what the boys wrote! But one of the reasons I am so moved by this post and the resulting comments is the fact that you have used a tool that has pushed what could have been an issolated ‘in school’ experience out into the world. You have managed to help Max and Emmit touch a wider audience! The power of one!
    Well done Max and Emmit, I’m proud of you and your determination to take action! All people should feel valued and appreciated whoever they are!

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  19. Hey all, when i read reflections of this standard I often think (like a lot of other people) that these kids have been rehearsed and assisted to reach such depth and eloquence. However I happen to know both emmitt and max and can see that what they have written, they have written themselves. well done both boys, excellent work.

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  20. Max and Emmit are both to be commended for their work. It was very well written and presented, I was shocked when I learned that Year 6 was 12 year old students. I stumbled upon this posting while researching blogs for a class I am currently taking in my Master’s Degree program. I am excited to share this blog with my colleagues, as we were having a discussion today about two Aspergian students in our classes. It is important for us as educators to understand Aspergers and to realize it should not be treated as a disability, but as an ability. Thank you both for your insight on the subject.

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  21. Hey Chris, thanks for your post. I really enjoyed reading it. The reason that the blog was as good as you said it was, was in 2 words pure: elbow grease. A bit of hard work can do wonders for any piece of work. Even though the exhibition has been long over, there is still much prejudice in the world against autistic people. You can make a difference very easily. Just raise awareness to your friends and tell them to tell their friends, etc.
    Ciao, Max
    PS: where do you come from, I;m Australian

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  22. Love your work guys.
    I have shared it with teachers in the Hume Region in Victoria Australia, who are working with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

    Sue King
    ASD Teaching and Learning Coach
    Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
    Hume Region
    Victoria Australia

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