So, I attend a state university…with you know…adults/”smart people.” Or so I thought. I don’t really know how to start this…so I just will…
There is a boy (ahem, young man) in my political science program, who has shared multiple classes with me. I will leave out his name.
He is autistic. I mean, at least I think he is, I haven’t asked him. But I have had the opportunity to interact with other autistic people at work and well… I had my own son tested for autism once. There is always the chance that I am wrong, but I’m pretty positive that he has an autism spectrum disorder.
We are assigned group projects in most of my classes lately (ugghhhhh) and chance would have it that I was placed in a group with a guy (ahem, young man) that I had done a group assignment with in the past. Yay, it’s always nice to see a familiar face. As chance would also have it…the autistic man is in my group too. My old friend made it a point to tell me that “he” was in our group, but that he was going to make someone “trade for him” because “he’s not even messing around with his grade.” Because “everyone in the group gets the same grade, you know?”
Is this real life??
I stopped dead in my tracks in the hallway and stared up at him and wondered if it was hard to climb on to a horse that high every morning. Would someone really do this? In college? Try and “trade the special kid” like he was a card? Even more baffling was the fact that he thought that our professor would allow his condition to negatively affect our group’s grade. So basically, not only is he a jerk… he thinks that everyone else is too.
Is it really something that people understand so little? He has a hard time sitting still and doesn’t keep his shoes on in class. He keeps all of his books on the desk directly next to him so that no one sits too close. And yet, there he sits…in the same classroom as everyone else, a senior in college despite what so many see as a disability. I find him inspiring.
I immediately thought of his mother, and how she probably feared moments like this one. I thought of all of the crazy things that I thought about while waiting to have Jace tested. I thought about how all moms feared these moments… where their child would be made to feel like they weren’t good enough when in fact they were all along.
I realized fully in that moment, something that I already knew, just never in the same context. Being a mother changes you. Now, my initial reaction will always be that of a mother. You relearn all of the qualities of kindness and inclusion that you were taught as a child whilst trying to instill them in your own children. It would seem that it is something many forget until you are reacquainted with innocence of childhood. You don’t treat someone that way just because they are different from you.
I firmly explained to my group that we wouldn’t be “trading him” for anyone. They call me “Miss Moral” as if it’s a bad thing.
I see now, that unique can be a burden. And one that I’m sure my new friend deals with all of the time. I am optimistic that this group project will have much more to teach the members of my group than the politics of Ideology and Propaganda.