Those of you who have been here for a while know that on Wednesdays, I feature different voices, chosen specifically to make all of us think, wonder, and appreciate differing viewpoints and abilities. As a mother to a perfectly perfect boy with probably-autism, I’ve changed my mission in life from whatever it used to be to finding support, humor, resources, and empathy for everybody. The Our Land Series began here and has continued each week because you people rock.
This week, I’m proud to say that my bloggie love Kerry, who will certainly be famous one day for her attitude, her brilliance, her compassion and her writing, has, once again, kindly given her moving words to The Our Land Series. Nobody believes me when I tell them that this amazing young woman is a 19-year old. She’s insightful and kind. She’s wonderful. She also brings Our Land a perspective that is uniquely hers.
Part of Your Class
The first thing I noticed about eight-year-old Jack was his eyes. They were sad, pleading, misunderstood. He rocked in his chair and covered his ears in an attempt to escape from this world, if only for a little while. Those around him assumed that he didn’t understand. I wish I could have shown them that it was the other way around; Jack was aware of more than they realized. They were the ones who did not understand.
I sat with a stack of spelling tests in front of me, and I began correcting them one by one. When I got to Jack’s test, the teacher said absentmindedly, “Oh, don’t worry about that one. He’s not in our class.” He’s not in our class. At first I was puzzled by this statement. He had his own desk, labeled with his name in tall, black letters. But I quickly realized that she was right; that was as far as the inclusion extended. Beyond that, he was a boy with autism, a disabled boy, a boy incapable of learning alongside his peers. I tilted his test toward the teacher. Most of the page was blank, with the exception of numbers five and six. His letters were sprawled across the paper, messy and wide, but these two words were spelled correctly. “Look at this,” I murmured, and an expression of surprise crossed her face. Those two words spoke to me; they screamed across the page, rebelled against the teachers who overlooked his intelligence and wrote him off as “that autistic kid.” My heart ached for this boy. I wanted so desperately to help him somehow, to show others the brightness in his mind, to see a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. One day, I walked into the classroom and found him standing in the corner, his face pressed against the wall in an attempt to block out the world that crushed his spirit and branded him as a hopeless case.
A few weeks later, Jack and I were in the hallway together. I was leading him back to the classroom when he stopped, rooted to the spot, and his eyes found my legs. He spoke in quiet, disjointed sentences, but I understood. He was concerned about the way I walked and was afraid that I was hurt. “It’s okay, Jack,” I said, “My legs were hurt when I was a baby, but I’m okay, I promise.” I took his hand in mine, and we continued down the hallway. There we were, the boy with autism and the girl with cerebral palsy, struggling to forge our way in a world that didn’t understand us. As I held his hand, I wished I could meet his wounded gaze and tell him, When I look at you, I see a child whose spirit is shattered and whose abilities are underestimated, whose eyes are clouded with hurt. I wish I could do more for you now, but I just want to you to know that I am working for your future, working to construct a world of empathy and wonder, a world where people will see you, the real you: not a boy disabled by autism, but a boy with limitless potential, a spark of curiosity, quiet intelligence. In this world, you will be understood and appreciated.
In this world, you will always be a part of your class.
Kerry is a nineteen-year-old college freshman with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. She’s the only girl in a set of triplets, and is living away from home for the first time. She hopes to make a difference in the world by spreading compassion and understanding. She rocks. Check out her incredible words over at Transcending CP. You won’t be disappointed.