Subliminal Advocacy

Sometimes I prefer a subtle approach.

I’d rather scheme ways to raise “awareness” outside of public campaigns and school-sponsored lessons.

I find ways to do it on the down-low; to plant covert messages and watch as misconceptions crumble.

Of course, there is always a need to engage in overt actions. When my son was in lower elementary school, he was integrated into the regular education classroom, with the support of a 1:1 aide. And, like any parent of a special needs student, I spent an exorbitant amount of time strategizing with his teachers and support staff how best to teach and support him, and set up “sensitivity training” and “friendship” programs to ensure that his peers learned how to be sensitive and friendly.

To be sure, my highly-vocal advocacy of my son’s educational and social needs helped to cultivate an inclusive mindset in his classmates and teachers.

But, I often delighted in staging more subtle acts of education to alter perceptions and transform stereotypes. When his teachers allowed for modified assignments, I exploited my son’s class projects in order to spread insidious disability awareness propaganda.

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What’s Your Name?

“Tell me your name, or we’ll shoot you.”

When you overhear a comment like that on the playground, you can’t help but take notice.

As bad as it sounds, I am not hugely concerned – the threat is coming from a child about four years younger and at least as many inches shorter than my son – but still, I guess I ought to take a closer look at this kid with this unusual strategy for “making friends.”

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The Easy Button

A few months ago, my son was playing air hockey at the bowling alley with one of the new friends he met at school this year – a typical 6th grader who has a good heart and, like many others in his class, seems willing to get to know my kid. After they were playing for a few minutes, this boy turned to me and said, “I was going easy on him … until I realized that he can play!”

That’s not an unusual reaction. My kid’s diagnosis impedes his abilities in so many areas that most people expect that he needs more help than he actually does. The first friends my child had in a typical classroom were the ones who wanted to help him. These were usually the girls with a “mother hen” instinct, but a few of the boys too. After they were told a bit about my son [see a story about that here], some went a little overboard to help make life easier for him.

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Talking to the Other Eighty-Seven

The latest CDC report says that autism now affects 1 in 88 children in the United States. My kiddo resides firmly on the “one” side of that equation. His quirkiness is clearly visible to anyone who spends more than a few seconds in his company. So, especially when it comes to school, I believe that talking about my son with the other eighty-seven is one of the most important jobs I have as his parent. Read More