March 18, 2009 by Marj Hatzell
Yesterday was THE day. I went to Bug Boy’s school to talk about diversity, acceptance, compassion, autism, etc. I read the kids a few stories, we had a discussion about how we are the same and different and we talked about things that bother us. I think they got it.
I hope they got it.
Bug Boy was there. He participated in the discussion. He let me tell the kids about Autism super powers. And I think he felt relieved that there is more than one kid in the room that freaks out at the sound of the fire alarm. In other words, he feels more normal. The rest of the class? I think they felt more normal, too. They discovered that just because they are in the class does not mean they have to be best friends with everyone. They found out how it felt to be left out. Most importantly, they learned that even if they aren’t friends, they still have to respect one another and treat other people the way they want to be treated.
Heck, we even talked about Bugaboo. I wanted to make it ABSOSMURFLY clear that Bugaboo was not crazy. I also wanted them to understand that he was born the way he is and cannot change that. And, of course, I made sure that when I talked about certain things that I gave the hairy eyeball to the punk who started all of this crap in the first place. You know, Mr. Popular? The kids who doesn’t think his poo stinks because he is awesome at every sport and taller than everyone and his dad is a coach and they moved to a “better” part of town? The one who bullies my kid and other kids in the class (and my kid doesn’t realize he is being bullied, but he sticks up for his friends that are being picked on. Go figure!)? Yeah, him. I wish I could have a private talk with him. And his parents. Something tells me that the reason this kid has no compassion for others and makes fun of people with disabilities is because his parents are the same way.
What made me feel really good was the fact that Bug Boy’s teacher was already doing activities that were a great lead-up to this. They did a Shamrock project that said they were lucky to have so-and-so as a friend because _______. I almost cried when I read Bug Boy’s because his little buddy said he was nice and fun and a good runner at recess.
The funniest part about yesterday’s discussion was when the kids were all, “Disabilities? Yeah, we’re down with that. No problem, we accept them. ” But when one kid said, “Everyone likes baseball!” And I said, “No, they don’t. For example, baseball is not my favorite sport. We never, ever watch baseball.” Some of the kids were all, “WHAAAAA? Are you KIDDING ME?” Gotta love their perception. They can take a kid who freaks out over the sound of the pencil sharpener but they cannot accept anyone who dislikes sports. Sigh.
What I learned from this: Kids are inherently sweet creatures. I think I knew this. Even the kids with the toughest exterior were upset when we read the book about bullying and saw a kid in the story being mistreated. It really resonated with them!
What else I learned: Kids can be very cruel, even when they don’t mean to be. Perhaps it is their competitive nature or their own family dynamics, but for some reason kids with younger siblings tend to be quite malicious. I don’t know if it is deliberate or not, but there it is.
What I want to learn: How many of their parents have bad attitudes about diversity and disabilities. These are the same folks who claim they are multicultural and yet think disabled citizens are a drain on our resources. And then accuse me of being a socialist when I say it is our responsibility as a community and a society to help the disabled reach their potential and have a good quality of life.
Also? I think I might be able to make a career out of going to schools and talking to kids about disabilities and acceptance.