The Unexpected Help My Son With Autism Received From His Class
It seems you hear more and more about children getting bullied, especially those with special needs. My 6-year-old son, Brock, who is on the autism spectrum, unfortunately has already been a victim of bullying at his young age.
When he started public school last year, I was worried for him because he’s quite vulnerable and will do anything to make his friends happy, even at the expense of himself. He didn’t talk much of friends at school, besides here and there. And I heard certain names of kids being talked about more than others.
When I had his very first individual educational plan (IEP) meeting last November, I heard something all parents wish for their kids, but even more so when you have a child with special needs. Brock had a very special best friend. And not just one friend but a whole group of them.
You see, Brock is scared to try new things and would do everything in his power to avoid doing so. But that started to change with a boy named Cooper. When Brock had to wear glasses after his eyesight went bad, his teacher tried encouraging him to put them on but to no avail. Then Cooper started chanting, “You can do it, Brockster the Rockstar.” Soon, the whole class joined in. That was the first day Brock started wearing his glasses.
In December, the elementary school had their very first concert of the year. The students did a lot of hand movements for certain songs. With Brock’s significant developmental delays, things like hand movements become quite challenging for him. I watched in amazement as his classmates stopped what they were doing during their live performance to help show Brock how to make the correct movements for the song they were singing. I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much as I have when I saw those 5- and 6-year-olds do that for my child. They didn’t even care that their own performances was on hold. In that moment, all that mattered was not letting their friend be left behind.
In January, Brock started play therapy at school to help with some behavioral issues he was having. A few months later, I met with the therapist to discuss any progress he was having. I learned that during the first few sessions, Brock would hide behind his teacher’s desk in the hopes of avoiding yet another therapy. His friend, Cooper, all on his own, got Brock to go by offering to join him. Cooper attended the first four sessions with Brock.
After the spring concert in May, Brock had a big meltdown in the hallway next to his classroom. The first thing I tried to do was to remove him from the situation, especially since it was in public. He gets embarrassed about his public meltdowns later on after he calms down. When that wasn’t going to happen, I knew I would have to try and help him right there. Imagine my surprise when some of his little friends sat next to me to help Brock calm down. They started saying, “It’s OK, Brockster” and “You’ll be OK.”
Those are just a few instances of some things that happened throughout last school year. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my son would be blessed with friends like that. His classmates didn’t see a child who was different; they saw him as a friend who happened to need extra help and they were more then willing to make sure he got it.
This is the exact reason why raising awareness for special needs is so important. I encourage people to ask me questions because the more aware people are, the less significant these differences become. I’ll be forever grateful for the parents of my son’s classmates for teaching acceptance. And I hope his first-grade year coming up will be just as successful as this past kindergarten year.