In my previous post titled, “You are your child’s best advocate,” I listed a few ideas on how to help teachers and peers understand your child and his or her disability. At the end, I promised to practice what I preached. I planned to teach my daughter’s Sunday school class a lesson on autism and to report on how it went.

Well, I’ll start by telling you that it was a good learning experience (and yes, I do mean to imply that it was a bit disastrous). A few of the kids understood what I was trying to teach, but I could have done a better job. First, I don’t think I planned it enough. I’d thought about what to say and practiced it in my head, but I was talking to a group of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds. How hard can that be? I used to teach that age group.

Let me tell you, tough crowd, those little ones! I don’t think I simplified enough. Plus, the music from the church service was so loud that we couldn’t hear well. I should have waited until it was quieter. And I had Rachel in the room with me. I don’t think she was bothered by what I said, but I do think the children were distracted when she sat on a few of them and tried to line up markers in the middle of the story-time rug where we were seated. I went with the moment and explained that this was one way she tries to make sense of the world. Sadly, a fight broke out over the markers and things went south from there.

But as I said, I did learn. Here are some suggestions:

  • Try to teach when the classroom is calm.
  • Remove distractions.
  • Have a handout for the adults and a similar one to send home with the children.
  • As mentioned in the previous post, write a brief description of your child’s disability, explain some of the specific ways your child is affected, then provide a website address for further study. If you are comfortable, provide your number or email should anyone wish to contact you with questions.

Despite my shortcomings and the marker disaster, I’d say the results were positive. We had new teachers in the room, and they seemed very interested. They asked me several questions and made an effort to reach my daughter. And a few of the older children have changed from frustrated by what they perceived as Rachel getting special treatment to being her biggest helpers.