By Chelsea R. Hull and Taletha Derrington
Very recently my six year-old son was diagnosed with Autism Level 1 plus ADHD. The diagnosis is where I began my journey into the grieving process. I started reaching out to people who truly understand Autism and the condition.
Though my beautiful boy doesn’t look any different from anyone else, his high IQ and social struggles make some days very difficult. With the right teacher, he is able to succeed in a mainstream classroom. With the right supports and coaching, he can play soccer with neurotypical peers. However, this is no easy road for him, me, my husband, his sister, and for us collectively. Autism and his high IQ make life challenging, a lot.
Having had a career in special education, helped in some ways, to prepare me for this journey. That said, nothing could have helped me through a process of accepting a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1 plus ADHD. I know a lot of about behavior modification and language development. I also know a lot about the field of Special Education. I however, know nothing, about accepting the struggles we face as a family, everyday.
One of my longest and dearest friends is Taletha Derrington, Ph.D, a Senior Researcher in early childhood policy, systems, and programs. And she is my son’s Godmother. Turning to Taletha was enlightening. Taletha’s years of experience in the field of early childhood combined with her love for my family made for long thoughtful insights into the topic of High Functioning Autism or what was known as Asperger’s. She offered support as we traveled through a world of evaluations, therapies, and a flawed school system. She also shared understanding and empathy about how my son might be experiencing the world of people, as she can relate.
If you saw my son at the park you might not think or care to know if he has a neurological difference. You might however notice he’s not playing like the other children. You might even consider him rude because he may not respond to your child; he might cut in line for the slide, howl with excitement, or even knock over your two year-old because he didn’t notice she was there. All of these subtle nuances may not seem like a big deal. But if you lived with these nuances everyday, and you are neurotypical, you might be struggling. You might want someone to understand and provide services that address all of the social cues your child misses. You might really want your child to be accepted, not just tolerated on a playground or in a classroom. And you might also need help accepting this is your life.
Here, Taletha opens up in a poem about a recent experience that prompted intense reflection on her own lifelong interpersonal transactions and what it feels like to be her. Perhaps if we can all cared and listened to the social struggles of our High Functioning community, we all might be a little more inclusive. Wouldn’t that be enlightening? Perhaps, given their high IQ’s we might also learn a lot from them while they learn from us.
Outcast. For Being Me: 20 questions and a statement
1. Have you ever felt like an outcast?
2. Have you ever been outcasted?
3. On a subtle scale?
4. On a social scale?
5. On an inner scale?
6. On an outer scale?
7. On what scale?
8. Have you ever outcasted someone?
9. Have you ever comforted an outcast?
10. Have you ever resonated with an outcast?
11. How do these questions make you feel?
12. How do you think these questions make others feel?
13. How do you feel about outcasts?
14. How do you think about outcasts?
15. How do you deal with being your authentic self?
16. How do you deal with others being their authentic selves?
17. Who are you?
18. Who else can be a better you?
19. Why does inclusion matter?
20. How can you believe that you are already the best you?
You are the only you.
The best and only you.