Photo: Nine people, including Lydia Brown, of various gender presentations, races, and dis/abilities statuses sitting on a carpeted floor in a college classroom painting and drawing posters about disability representation. Two paintings involve eyes -- one a symbol for blindness, and one with a heart instead of the pupil; another painting involves a tree; and a drawing depictions of various autistic activists. From Diversability Art Night at Georgetown University, 12 March 2012.
An Open Letter to the Educators That I Work With
This anonymous post comes to Autistic Hoya from the same anonymous contributor who wrote "How to be an Ally to Sick People," "A Guide to Sighted Allyhood," and "How to be an Ally for People with PTSD."
Having a bad day? Stressed out? Under-slept? Headache? You were so kind to me when you could tell I was under the weather and checked in with me.
You were so grateful when I acknowledged that your caseload just doubled and how stressful that must be.
You were quick to tell me it's not the caseload. It's the "behaviors".
You were so sweet to your colleague on the phone asking how he's feeling today.
Where does that empathy go when you yell at your student for saying "yes" in the wrong tone of voice (because you know, she had a headache today--I asked).
What about your tone of voice with her? You know, you yelling at her and everything?
Where is that kind-heartedness for your student who is struggling to stay awake because he couldn't get enough sleep last night due to his home situation?
Where is that sweet voice you used with your colleague? Why is your voice all the sudden so harsh and demanding with your students?
How come you extend so much compassion to me, but not to our student?
Why does your compassion-o-meter shut off so suddenly as soon as the person you're talking to is under 18?
Why do you think that yelling at your students is going to help at all? If they are struggling, isn't there some part of you that realizes that what they need is tender-heartedness?
Why can't you let your students have a bad day? Why can't you let them have their own feelings? Why can't you allow them to be human?
Why is it a "behavior" when a young person sighs in exhaustion, meanwhile you literally just sighed when you came in the room because you're exhausted?
Why are you literally keeping these students in detention for doing the exact same thing you just did...in front of them?
Why do you think every little micro-behavior is about you? And not about them trying to regulate and soothe their mind-body-spirit in this environment?
How can you complain to me about how these students are so "high-functioning" and shouldn't be "disruptive" (your term for stimming), while not even seeing that the adult in front of you is also a so-called "high-functioning autistic" who has the same exact mannerisms?
How can you not see the double-standard?
No, really. How do you not see it?
My heart shatters every time I witness once of these interactions. I know I break all the rules. I allow them to be tired, to have a bad day, to be imperfect humans in my presence. I know, I know. I let them stim. The sacrilege. I don't constantly language- and behavior-police them. I make reasonable allowances and accommodations for their disabilities.
I'm not going anywhere. I refuse to let them be numbed. I refuse to let them be hardened.
And I encourage you to go within. Reconnect with the young person inside you. Nurture the child within. Being compassionate with yourself. Heed your inner child's wisdom.
Let you be. Let them be.