One year, a lot of bloggers were doing A to Z blogging challenges during the month of April (writing about a selected topic using one letter of the alphabet each day).
I did not really consider joining the challenge, instead being very happy to sit back and read the creative contributions of others.
I did, however, for a moment think to myself “A is for Autism…”
… and then, kind of obviously, thought about the Navigator’s school and how it incorporated autism awareness and information into the curriculum.
Which, to be honest, was limited – at least to my knowledge.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Navigator’s school and all his teachers and the administration did in support of my child.
I also understand that a lot of the curriculum was really not under the teachers’ control, and when it was I don’t think autism was the first thing they thought of in terms of subject matter.
One year they wore t-shirts on Fridays during Autism Awareness Month.
I had no idea if or to what extent they actually discussed autism with their students. Or with each other.
To their credit they continued to wear the t-shirts on Fridays throughout the year. What kind of informational follow-up occurred?
I don’t know.
One year during Autism Awareness Month my son’s reading teacher assigned a book about autism.
The Navigator came home very tense about it, and would have been fine with it had he not been surprised by it.
I asked that the next time there was an assignment about autism that we get a heads up so I could prepare him.
There was no next time.
These examples highlight what’s missing – the next steps, following-up on the t-shirts and the hashtags, steps focused on understanding, acceptance, and respect, not just awareness.
It is like showing someone a logo – say this one:
Photo credit: Public domain found on Wikipedia
and then telling them it is for a sporting event.
Without follow-up information, there is no understanding of the powerful importance of this logo, what it means, and how it impacts the world.
If a school, business, other entity decides to promote autism awareness, it needs to also commit to offering follow-up information to promote understanding, acceptance, and respect.
Otherwise it is just a two-dimensional logo and a huge missed opportunity.
For my son’s school, this could involve the really simple steps of building autism-related examples into reading, social studies, math, history, etc., assignments, as part of the curriculum all year around.
The school district could do this by consulting with autistics and autism experts. These folks should be at the table when developing curricula and when looking at materials options.
The school district should be asking the big school materials publishing houses
“Where are your materials incorporating autism into lessons? You don’t have any? When will they be developed and available?”
At estimated rates of 1 in 68 (1 in 42 for boys) there is likely a child on the autism spectrum in almost every classroom, all year round, and not just in April.
Educating about autism – that’s what schools do, after all – promotes autism awareness, understanding, acceptance and respect all the time, not just once a year.
It is doing more than simply sharing the logo.
Here is another example of how Autism understanding, acceptance, and respect can be promoted in schools from Seriously Not Boring. Great read!