Introducing Autism to Elementary Students

I explained the reasons for some of the puzzling behaviors they see in class. I talked about some of the famous people throughout history that have had autism and illustrated this point by showing the book Different Like Me.

When I first started to write this class presentation, I struggled to find a way to explain to young people what autism is. I didn’t want the presentation to sound negative or talk about all of things people with autism can’t do or don’t do well. Keeping this in mind, my focus became highlighting the similarities between the students and Julia. Her classmates were surprised to learn that she loves Wii games, hotdogs, Disney films, and Polly Pocket dolls just like they do.

I was impressed with the class discussion, their questions about autism, and what they have noticed about my daughter along the way. Most of the students have been together since kindergarten in this little elementary school. We also discussed sensory issues and found out that all of us have sounds that bother us, foods we just can’t eat, and sights that overwhelm us. We all agreed that we aren’t that different after all.

One book that I found very helpful in writing this presentation was The Autism Acceptance Book. There are some great ideas for class discussions, individual work, and activities to help put a child in the shoes of someone with autism. Other good books to look at for class introductions to autism are Can I Tell You About Asperger Syndrome, My Friend with Autism and My Best Friend Will.

I felt very encouraged after giving this class presentation because the students were so open to suggestions and willing to talk about something that was new to them. Young people can be very accepting when they understand what makes a person tick.

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