April is Autism Acceptance Month (formerly Autism Awareness Month)! In April of 2017, I decided it would be interesting to hear from a high school student who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD.) I interviewed the student who had some great insights into how teachers can help students with autism. I took the interview and developed this letter to YOU, the teacher, from the student. Remember, each student with autism is an individual, so while some ideas are outlined in this letter, the needs of each student will be different.
I am in your freshman English class this semester. I’m very excited because English is one of my favorite classes (along with social students). My last English teacher was my favorite. He had tons of fun and acted like one of us. We laughed a lot. I hope you do that too because it works!
I like social studies because I am an auditory learner and most social studies tends to be talking and memorization. We all have different learning styles.
No matter what class I am in, though, please know that I work very hard and want to please you.
I am in choir and magic club, so if you want to see some card tricks, I’m your girl! I keep trying out for musicals and plays, but I haven’t gotten a part yet. I plan to keep trying. I thought about playing floor hockey but decided against it. Extra-curricular activities are part of the school experience and are great social opportunities, so please support me in my endeavors.
I am good at processing through problems and thinking through my actions before doing them which is good. I haven’t always been able to do this, but I have learned how from teachers and with practice. My teacher used the Social Thinking curriculum to help me.
It’s very helpful for me to have some extra time if I need it to finish tests or quizzes. Also, if you could give me notes to go with your lectures, that would be great. Things get a little messy sometimes. (Here is a list of 20 accomodations that may help.)
This high school is very big and sometimes I have a hard time finding my classes at the beginning of the semester. If you could give me a little grace at the start, I’d appreciate it! Also, I love to be social and hang with friends, but there are so many people at this school, it can be hard to get to know people. It helps me if I can choose who to partner with or which small group to work in. If not, it all works out.
I am a typical freshman girl with strengths, interests, and struggles just like everyone else. I don’t want to, but I should probably tell you that I have high functioning autism. I don’t like to talk about it, so please keep it on the down low.
Update: I am so very proud of the student I interviewed for this blog. I reached out to her recently, and she was gracious enough to provide an update. She is attending Augustana University now as a freshman (with enough credits to be called a junior) and has been enjoying the college experience. This student has a job on campus and was also selected to manage one of the university’s sport teams. She is making excellent strides academically and socially, and she hopes to double major in psychology and education. She will make an excellent educator some day!
She shared the following:
Augustana University* has been a great place to go to college, and I have seen a lot of decent accommodations offered for Autistic students. They provide their lecture slides after they are presented which helps if you are a bit slower at writing, and if a person wants to type their notes nobody will bat an eye. I am doing quite well and got on the Dean’s List last semester. I am thankful the the faculty is willing to have office hours and communicate with their students. I have had two professors who have been extremely willing to give points back if I can explain something in my notes that they couldn’t read or understand. I hope that paragraph makes sense for the blog post, and it was fun reading what I thought could help in 2017.