I was over at BBC Mundo today looking for inspiration and I came across something unexpected. There was this beautiful and thought-provoking slide show about autism. The father of an autistic son has taken photos, originally as a way to make a connection with him. Now he has published the photos in a book that will hopefully bring awareness and attention to autism, because it is a condition that makes people uncomfortable and is therefore difficult to understand. The photos are both sad and lovely - and they do a remarkable job of highlighting those things that are different and those that are similar among children with autism and those without.
As teachers, we deal with autism more than most. It can be very hard to work with a child who will never respond with affection or enthusiasm to what we teach, but those children need our attention and our talents as much as the others. For me, as a "people person" I thrive on the positivity and excitement in my classroom and I work hard to draw out my shy students and build up their confidence. But many autistic kids cannot be drawn out no matter what I do or how hard I try, and it makes me feel like a failure. (Not accurate, I know. But emotions are not concerned with accuracy or rationality.)
At home, my own kids are often all over me. We will all pile up on the chaise together to watch TV, snuggle up, and enjoy each other's company. I cannot imagine what it is like for parents when your child doesn't smile back at your or hug you. It takes a special soul to raise a child with autism and I admire them. I hope the rest of the world gives these parents the approval that they deserve for their dedication and abiding love, especially those with children who are unable to do so. May we all keep that in mind when we have parent conferences.