Before I even started going to school, a staffing specialist told my parents to put me in a special education classroom setting because I would never be able to succeed in a regular classroom setting. My parents, however, made sure that I would get the help that I needed in a regular class setting instead of being resourced. Their thought process was that in the real world I wouldn’t be resourced so I would have to learn how to function in a regular classroom setting. They didn’t want me to feel like I was any different from anyone else.
I started kindergarten, not being able to hold a pencil by myself because I also had Mild Muscle Hypotonia which caused me to have low muscle tone in my fingers. That wasn’t the only obstacle I faced. My autism caused me to be speech and comprehension delayed. In order to get me the help I needed to succeed, my parents made sure I went to speech therapy and occupational therapy in school and out of school. The biggest thing they fought for was for me to get I a one-to-one aide. My first day in Kindergarten, Mrs. Iglesias was assigned as my aide. Along with my Kindergarten teacher, Miss Mathews, they set the tone for my elementary school years. From day one Miss Mathews treated me like every other student in her class. She knew things did not come easy to me, but she believed in me. My parents worked as a team with her. Miss Mathews had a saying, “I don’t give Es.” In Kindergarten Es are the equivalent to As. The final quarter I earned 5 Es in Miss Mathews’ class. It was at that moment that I started to understand that I can do anything I set my mind to.
Ms. Miranda became my aide in first grade and stayed with me until third grade. She was there to help me through some of my assignments when I needed the help or to explain assignments that I was not understanding. My parents never told me she was my aide. They did not want me to feel any different than my classmates and they also did not want me to become dependent on her. Having my aides really helped me but they also helped my parents. When I was younger getting my thoughts to form words were difficult. You can imagine how frustrating it was for me to try and explain a project or assignment to my parents. Both my aides had great communication with my mom. They were always communicating which made homework time easier for all of us. By the time middle school was approaching, I felt comfortable without an aide. I had a strong base and knew how to self-advocate.
Autism affects the way you socially interact. Making friends was not easy but it wasn’t really a problem for me. I went to school to learn. This was a difficult concept for my parents. Every day I would get home and they would ask if I had made a friend.
One day I grew tired and told them, “No. But that is not important to me.” I remember my Mom’s eyes tearing up and then she said, “You are right.” They never asked again.
That being said I did have people I was friendly with at school. I was invited to parties and sat with the same group at lunch. I was lucky to have been in a school where they nurtured acceptance.
However, I was not spared from bullying. One of my worst experiences with bullying was when I was in first grade. The kid who picked on me would cut me off in our class line while I was talking to my friends and he would start talking to them like if I wasn’t there. However, that wasn’t the worst of it. While my class would be eating lunch, he would get my lunch box and throw all of my food away in the garbage can while I was still eating it. This would leave me hungry for the rest of the school day. At first, I wouldn’t tell my parents about it because I didn’t know how to describe that I wasn’t eating much because a kid would be throwing my lunch away.
But one day, I decided to tell my parents why I was going home hungry and was able to describe to them what was happening. As soon as I told them, my mom immediately called the school and told them about this reoccurring incident. The next day, he was called into the office and was told that from now on, he was to get his lunch from the cafeteria and eat it in the front office for the rest of the school year. A few months passed, soon it was my birthday. My parents came to the school and handed out cupcakes. While they were doing this, I told them that my bully had given me a present. Then my mom handed me a cupcake and told me “go to the front office, give him this cupcake and say thank you”.
As soon as I gave him the cupcake, he told me that he was sorry for throwing away my lunch and for being rude to me. I accepted his apology and we both came back to the cafeteria together and he never picked on me again.
By: Julian Alexander Guas