I was extremely fortunate in life, born into a large family who loved me greatly. Every one of them wanted to see me succeed. They pushed me and taught me things. My grandparents made sure I had good manners and my aunts and uncles taught me art and music. Cousins and family was fun but teachers and school was very difficult.
At home I felt confident and competent, this was always crushed when I went to school. My individuality was not cherished and teachers said I was too much of a distraction to stay in class. Eventually when I learned to sit still (which even now is hard on me) I was allowed to return to class with my peers.
They were strict and it was hard but in the end I had to want to go back to the regular class room so I would be motivated to sit still. Autistic people can do very well if they are motivated but our motivations my not make sense to others.
I’ve learned to use my own motivations as rewards for good work. I tell myself “if you do this now you can have a reward at the end”. Sometimes the reward may be a stretch or stim break, it could be a cup of coffee, or a snack. I need to be motivated and as an adult I have to motivate myself to create good habits.
It’s not much different than what I would do for my dog when helping him learn new habits. All creatures love rewards and I love my dog. I want to help grow good habits so my dog can have a happy life – we just both happen to love treats.
Teachers who punish, call out flaws, and ostracize children who are different were some of my biggest adversaries in school growing up. They didn’t know what to do with me back then. I was “smart and dumb at the same time”. Teachers also called me lazy. There were no accommodations for me growing up, I had to learn to blend in or get kicked out of school.
Fast forward thirty years and parents advocating for their own children often struggle to get reasonable accommodations for their children in the public school system. Schools want to offer many Autistic kids a minimal education and with our current political situation I worry things may get much worse.
Many great historical thinkers had trouble in school growing up. Imagine if they encountered a system that told them they were not worth teaching. What if nobody had taken the time to help them learn and grow?
Everybody deserves the chance to learn and grow. We need to make sure Autistic children do not get shut out of an education just because they have a different way of experiencing the world.