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Autism, Literally
Teaching an autistic student, like Sam Rubin, requires putting aside some assumptions.

By Sam Rubin

If I could suggest to any teacher one thing she could do for a child with autism in a classroom, it would be to tune herself into finding little ways to include him.

Once in kindergarten, my teacher read Dr. Seuss's "A Many Colored Days" in circle time. The book talked about feelings: "Some days are yellow. Some are blue. On different days, I'm different too." She held the book up and asked, "What do you see?" The pictures were of children who looked like gingerbread cookies.

My classmates called out the expected answers. One said, "It's a boy." Another said, "It's people." I raised my hand excitedly. When she called on me, I blurted out, "I like blue gingerbread men!"

Her face fell. She moved on, dismissing my possibly tangential comment entirely. She never took a second look at the page to see what I saw. Had she done so, she might have asked the other kids if they, too, saw gingerbread children. And that would have roped me in.

The moment missed, this experience set the tone for the school year. I was the kid who made off-beat remarks that dropped in the circle like lead balloons.

I see things literally. She saw her assumption, that the illustrations, of course, were children. Some people are blinded by their assumptions and the expectation that an autism diagnosis sets up might have blinded her, too, to my contribution to circle time. If my teacher had used her imagination to connect my gingerbread man comment to the child-like images, my words would have been relevant and my classmates' perception of me more accepting.

A child with autism can be valued as a student whose observations may bring an entirely different, but equally valid, perspective. If you only we can see past our assumptions.

With an equally valid Perspective, this is Sam Rubin.

Sam Rubin is a vocalist, actor, filmmaker and champion for neuro-atypical diversity.

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