Second in a Blog Series: Understanding Autism with Easterseals Ambassador Aaron Likens
I can think back on my life and pinpoint exact things my teachers did that, if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. They did it by intuition only because there wasn’t autism training, awareness, and Asperger’s was still a couple years away from being put in the DSM and yet they made an incredibly shy and unconfident elementary kid have a chance. Here’s the thing, and this can bring me to tears, they planted seeds so to speak and never got to see the amazing harvest to come.
Educators have a job few can comprehend as they truly hold the future in their rooms each and every school day. What can seem like an insignificant moment can be a life-changing event. For myself, this was in second grade. I loved auto racing, and still do, and it was the only thing I talked about and by my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Jendra, asking me, “Aaron, where is Formula 1 racing this weekend?” I said, “Silverstone.” And she fired back, “Aaron, where is Silverstone?” and I had to think. What had the announcer said about the race prior? I finally remembered and answered, “England” to which she immediately fired back, “Where’s England?” and with that my love of the world and ability to see more than what’s right in my environment was born.
Teachers will have students on the spectrum and they may not know it. It’s not a matter of if but when and how many. Some will take things literally, some may not understand humor, and some may be a true genius. It’s a spectrum and that’s the race we have on hand for teachers. There is no one size fits all answer. I wish I could tell you there were, but what works for one student may have an adverse effect on the next, but the more information and understanding our teachers have the better options and tactics the teacher will be able to be used.
For teachers having the solemn duty of serving the youth and leaving a footprint beyond what people conceive of on a typical day, the more we can supply them with information on the autism spectrum so the minds on the autism spectrum may flourish much more than if that student had remained stagnant. There is so much human potential in each person on the spectrum and every day I think back to what Mrs. Jendra did and that I am who I am by just one simple, seemingly irrelevant question.