Friday, March 20, 2009


Every now and again I find something that amazes me. Something that brings me to believe that in each of us there is more than we share with the world. This essay is written by a third grader. It was sent to me by a friend who I am confident in. She has assured me that this child did really write this fantastic essay. Enjoy!

The topic of my essay is a description of how an autistic boy benefits my classroom. I’ve read about autism. I learned that kids with autism usually don’t like to make eye contact. They are usually sensitive to touch and sound. It’s often hard for autistic people to speak and sometimes can’t speak at all. It’s hard for them to make friends. There is no one cause of autism. There is no known cure.

Some people might think that a kid with autism shouldn’t be going to school. I think that it is better that they do, so that they can learn to read, write, do math, and be part of the school community. I believe it will work better to teach the autistic students to live with their autism so that they will be able to go out in the world. I’ve gone to school now for three years with an autistic student. This is what I know.

Noah is an extraordinary boy. He is a student in my third grade class. Everyone in my class is different. What makes Noah most different is his autism. Like other kids, he plays and runs around at recess. Mrs. Reigh, his assistant teacher, says that he is really good at math. Other kids in my class are good at math too. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It’s what we do with them that matters.

Noah doesn’t speak like other kids. I can tell what he is saying but it’s not precise. You need to infer his meaning. I think I can tell what he is feeling. For many in my class it’s hard to understand Noah but everyone tries. Some kids in my class can speak really well but you don’t know what in the world they are talking about. I’m sure I don’t always make sense either. Just because he has autism doesn’t mean you have to speak different to him. He understands what you say to him. You should see him type. He types way better than me. Most of us speak to him like he’s any other third grader but with maybe a hint of more kindness. Like us, he tries to be a good student. He does the best he can. Having Noah in our class has helped us be better communicators but I don’t think we realize it. It just happens.

Noah benefits our classroom by showing his expressions. For example, being cheery. He laughs, jumps around, claps, and smiles. This brings a sense of cheer to the other kids in our classroom. I know that humans are affected by the people around them. Happiness brings more happiness and sadness brings more sadness. In our class the way people act or feel affects the whole class. When he gets mad, we know he’s mad but we have to figure out why. When other kids get mad they might not say why. Or they may say it is one thing but it is really something else causing it. You still have to figure it out. At least Noah gets over it.

Noah helps us become more patient. An example of this is when his Alpha Smart doesn’t work at the moment and we must wait. Another example is if Noah wants to explore an object we need to wait for our turn. He doesn’t always want to give the object up. For Noah this might be because he is autistic and can’t help it. For others it might be just plain old selfishness. It’s just the way some people are.

Noah uses some sign language. He helps us learn new signs too. Noah signs “thank you” when he gets a treat or snack. Noah signs “water” when he sees a picture of it. He signs “ball” sometimes also. This helps him communicate. Mrs. Reigh teaches us sign language so that we can answer. It’s pretty basic but it’s a beginning. It is interesting to learn.

I think Noah is a friend to others. At recess he blows Bubbles, plays with bird seed and rice. Noah will listen while others read. Being a friend is something everyone can learn.

The next example of how Noah benefits our classroom is not so clear and simple. You have to dig deep to realize, but it’s true. Not everyone realizes this, but Noah teaches us how to hope. He teaches us to hope, because he has autism. We can hope someday he’ll be able to speak. I’m told there is no “cure” for autism today. But what about tomorrow? Someone I respect and believe in says, faith and courage will carry you but only hope will lift you.

The final example isn’t so easy for me to describe. It’s about family. I grew up in a happy, loving family. It was my dad, my mom, my sister and Nana. We spent each day like it was our last. We knew Nana was dying. She had end stage emphysema. She wasn’t supposed to live a long time. She did though. She lived with us seven years. It was the best I could ask for.

Noah’s got a tough but good life. He has a Mom and a Dad, a little sister, an older brother and his twin brother Mark. His grandparents go to his house a lot. Noah’s brother Mark is autistic too but is home schooled for now. I’ve met his Mom, Dad, grandma, sister and Mark. Their family is patient, loving and caring. You can tell when you see them. I imagine their life is hard but worth while. I say that it is worthwhile because they have each other. They wouldn’t be making such progress and they probably wouldn’t be as strong if their family didn’t appreciate what they have.

If you look for joy and happiness you will find it. If you don’t give up looking for it, you will always find it.

Really close your eyes and think about this: people who have autism aren’t much different from us. They eat , sleep, drink, read, play, run, jump, laugh, cry, have feelings, love, hope, dream, type, bounce a ball, and make friends. The autistic person is not much different than a “normal“ person. It’s just more noticeable. Wouldn’t it be something if it wasn’t even noticeable?