A STORY ABOUT AN AUTISTIC CHILD
At your Preschool, on every Monday, each child gets to go up to a big basket, full of a variety of candy and take a piece (or two, or three, maybe even more). You, however, for reasons you do not understand, find it uncomfortable and confusing to do so, and nobody bothers to bring you a piece or ask if you want one. They must either assume you don’t like candy or don’t think about you while they are getting theirs. In truth, you don’t like nearly as many kinds of candy as most people, but there are some pieces you think you’d be willing to try, if they’d just ask you. But, you just don’t know how to get some.
This happens every Monday of Preschool, for the entire year. By the end of the year, you have gotten no candy, while all the other students have gotten as much as they reasonably wanted. This upsets you in four ways: First, you didn’t get any! Second, you have no idea why you just can’t go get a piece of candy like everyone else does. Third, you feel isolated and left out of the group. Finally, nobody seemed to care if you wanted any, and that’s what hurts you the most.
In Kindergarten, the practice of the Monday candy handout is going to continue! Determined to participate, you excitedly plan throughout the entire summer how you will be able to get candy when school resumes. You imagine how you will look, act, and walk. You think precisely what you will say to make sure you get a piece that’s not too sweet or sour, not too sticky or too crumbly, something that doesn’t taste at all like the many yucky kinds others seem to enjoy. Even at age five, with the most rudimentary handwriting skills, you write out your strategy on a piece of paper.
When the first Monday of Kindergarten arrives, as the other students are noisily and haphazardly settling into place, you are, as surreptitiously as possible, taking a carefully-folded piece of worn paper out of your pocket. You have been carrying it around for months, and it has the five things you are going to say to get a piece of candy.
When the moment comes for you to go up, your muscles feel like they are about to propel you out of your seat, but something in your brain suddenly shuts down, and you cannot move and cannot even remember the talking points.
You look away, appearing completely disinterested as you have become afraid someone might come offer the wrong kind of candy. Additionally, you are hiding your shame for not being able to participate, keeping your gaze on the wall instead of the candy basket, lest anyone see your tears.
When you get home, your parents know something bad happened, but you are unable to talk about it. That night, you hear your parents discussing a scientific study indicating the benefits of eating a piece of candy every day. Perhaps, you think, that’s why they give students candy at school.
You don’t get much candy from your parents, and when you do, it usually tastes terrible. Your parents often don’t seem happy giving it to you, and they certainly are displeased when you are not overjoyed and grateful. Questions about the candy are met with swift reproach and reminders of their authority over you. Guilt and shame over the candy are now lodged in your mind.
In school, every year, the Monday candy basket is there, and you continue to be unable to do what your peers do easily, despite your intense desire to get a piece of candy and fit in with them.
This will happen in each grade, year . . . after . . . year . . .
FOR TEN YEARS!
-END OF PART 1-
In Part 2, something very unexpected is going to happen.
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