Me Too, Jack

It’s April, which means it’s Autism Acceptance Month.

If you want to know why I celebrate Autism Acceptance Month instead of Autism Awareness Month, check out the spring issue of Zoom Autism. I have an essay in there on this very topic. (There is also a lot of other great stuff in it.)

A lot of places, especially schools, tend to celebrate Autism Awareness Day on April 2. A few days ago Jack told me that his school would be celebrating Autism Appreciation Day instead.

First: Awesome.

Second: Yep, still awesome.

Photo of Jack. He's working on a magnetic puzzle ball.

My Jacksy. Also awesome.

I tell you this to preface a story that one of Jack’s teachers emailed to me on the first day of April. She explained that they are celebrating diversity of learning and other abilities in addition to autism.

There is an “I am” wall in the cafeteria to involve students in “the differences and similarities that contribute to each of our unique personalities.”

Sounds pretty cool, right?

Wait until you hear the next part of the teacher’s email:

“Yesterday, we kicked off the activity by introducing it in 6th grade lunch,” she wrote. “I walked through the cafeteria and had kids give some examples into the microphone. Some were ‘I am creative,’ ‘I am kind,’ ‘I am funny.’

“I felt a little tug on my sleeve, and it was Jack. He gently pulled the microphone to himself and spoke into it. ‘I am Jack, I am autistic and I am proud.’ There was applause from the entire 6th grade.”

You guys. This is what it’s about. This is everything.

Jack’s teacher told me that students approached Jack after he said that to tell him they were proud of him too and they shared their own experiences with autistic friends and family.

Jack has known about his autism since pretty close to the time he was diagnosed. He has been leading me in understanding autistic pride for years. I am grateful to be able to follow his example. You’re proud of you, Jack? Me too.

This is why autism acceptance matters so much to me. I need my kid to hear this message. I want to protect him from people who say something is wrong with him and needs to be fixed.

Lest anyone worry that he might be getting that message at his school, let me put your mind at ease. The teacher who sent me this email is Jack’s case manager and teaches him multiple times a day and took home a sweatshirt that had ripped to try to fix it and is generally The Right Person For Jack At The Right Time. This is how she ended her email about this lunchtime experience:

“So you can tell Jack that I think he is courageous and different and wonderful.”

Me too, Jack. Me too.

14 thoughts on “Me Too, Jack

  1. Got chills reading this. I loved the fact that Jack was one of the first to speak and double love the other student’s reactions. Especially in middle school. Rock on Jack!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing, Jean. Your story has inspired me to rename our Autism programming for April at Sligo to “Autism Appreciation Week”. I’m going to share this lunch room example as something we should be striving for. We’re so lucky to have had you and Jack pave the way for us!

  3. Okay, I’m not gonna lie. I have missed these posts. Like. A lot. Don’t get me wrong – as I journey on my own get-in-shape-to-fight-the-drooping-and-spreading that has me seeing my paternal grandmother’s form every time I look in the mirror, I so appreciate your posts about your own running stories. It’s just that your voice about your boys’ incredibleness is unlike anything else I’ve read, and it rocks me in such a good way.

    That said, I have been meaning to tell you that I also truly appreciate your shift away from writing solely about them. Maybe it’s my own experiences with a similar situation – as I feel my writing and posting co-opts my own girls’ experiences, stories, and souls for the sake of educating and supporting others about our life with one hearing kid and one deaf one. I’ve struggled constantly about what that all means – and have thought so often about stopping. But I blog on. I keep sending query letters to agents and publishers, hoping someone will bite on my book proposal.

    So thank you. Thank you for keeping going. Thank you for writing new things. And thank you for sharing, even if it’s just every once in a while, the amazing stories of your awesome boys.

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