Can I tell you a secret?
One of my biggest fears in life is Noah becoming the forgotten one. Especially if he remains nonverbal. I fear people may think since he can’t talk he doesn’t have anything to say. They may stop speaking to him or around him less and less. And eventually, they may not even ask about him at all. We’ve had a few of those already, and Noah’s only four.
I worry he will always be the one that stands out-and not in the good way. In the disruptive, judged way. The world can be mean sometimes. And the older Noah gets, the less "cute" it will all be.
The other day while dropping Noah off at school I was having a chat with his teacher. Noah noticed some of the kids grab a trampoline and start taking turns jumping. They eventually ventured off and so Noah felt safe to go over and start bouncing. He brought me and his teacher over and was just jumping away and laughing—loud! I have never seen him so rambunctious at school before, it was pretty funny.
But the amazing part. The part I keep replaying over and over...a couple of his classmates gathered around and watched him the whole time. They were smiling and giggling and thought he was quite the riot too. I kept looking back and forth from Noah to all these happy kids just staring at him, and it was so special. For a few minutes, Noah was part of the group. Just being a silly kid having fun with his peers.
Being that Noah is the only one diagnosed ASD in his class, he doesn’t really interact with any of the kids. He’s the least likely to participate, and the most likely to meltdown when things don’t go his way. That’s not an easy truth, but it is.
So this little preschool moment meant something to me, and perhaps, even to Noah. And I was reminded that people are mostly good. Even little four year olds accept Noah. I think they’re interested—which is amazing.
I don’t know what Noah’s public school future holds, but I hope as he moves forward the kids around him stay curious. Maybe even ask questions. I hope by teaching about diversity and inclusion, the kids like Noah won’t be the forgotten ones.
So can we maybe make a pact? If you’re reading this and you don’t have a kiddo like mine, maybe you could share a little story about Noah with your children. You could tell them that some kids don’t talk, they may use an iPad to communicate but that doesn’t mean they’re not listening. Sometimes loud sounds can really upset and scare Noah, he's just that more sensitive.
Sometimes he really struggles with being patient, he doesn’t mean to get frustrated or not take turns or throw things, he just doesn’t understand yet. And if he’s angry and he bangs his head on the ground, don’t be scared or stare, he just doesn’t feel understood and doesn't know what else to do. And sometimes when Noah’s really happy or excited he makes a loud shouting sound-almost like Tarzan, and flicks his hands and kicks his legs. We think it’s adorable and silly and it makes us smile.
So maybe, it could do the same for you?
He may be different, but if you give him a chance, and perhaps even join him in his world...you will be forever changed. I know I was.