Saturday, February 2, 2008

High School Senior: "Be Aware of Autism and Act Kindly"

Newsday publishes a weekly column called "New Voices." The column features nonfiction essays by writers who are in middle school, high school and college. One of Newsday's newest voices, Michelle Kurtz, wrote about autism awareness and being nice to fellow students who may have autism. As a parent I appreciate her essay. While the realist in me acknowledges that we have a ways to go before students with autism are no longer bullied in school, I also know that there are some outstanding compassionate individuals out there looking after our kids.

Ms. Kurtz's last paragraph:

"No one should be the victim of someone else's jokes, especially a person who may not fully understand the remarks. With awareness and kindness, people can blend, improving each other's deficits and highlighting each other's accomplishments."

My Thoughts: This dates me, but when I was in high school autism only became a topic of interest when the now infamous film Rain Man hit the theaters. I remember a fellow student giving a report on what was then called "autistic savants." No one knew about autism in general because everyone with the condition in our district was hidden away. There was a special education school in our county that all kids with special needs attended.

Autism, as I've come to know it as a parent, wasn't talked about--not in the report and not in general. Essays such as Kurtz's make me glad that I'm raising a son with autism now rather than ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago. Hopefully, as Ms. Kurtz urges, individuals like my son will be more likely to be treated with kindness and respect in middle school and high school as autism awareness increases.

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