Increasingly in classical schools and homeschools, we hear from those who are teaching students with autism and related conditions. In this issue of the Simply Classical Journal we will contemplate the needs of these children. Let’s begin with some information:
- The word “autism” derives from the Greek word autos (“self”) and was established by Leo Kanner in 1943 to describe the child who retreats to the “self” and appears to be in his own world.
- Across the world 1 in 100 people are said to have autism. In the United States over two million individuals are now identified as having autism ranging from mild to severe. Girls with autism are studied less frequently, as males are identified 4:1 over females.
- Early signs of autism may include repetitive or unusual movements, repetition of words without meaning, an absence or delay of language, intense reactions to sounds, smells, or textures, avoidance of eye contact or looking “through” you, rigidity with a desire for sameness, difficulty with transitions, fixed interests, lining up parts of toys or games rather than playing with them, or not responding. A child with autism may desire social interaction but needs help with nuances that others take for granted.
Both of my twins have autism. Years ago, my children’s gentle occupational therapist told me that the top factor for a child’s success is his sense of love, acceptance, and closeness from a parent. As if scales fell from my eyes, I began to compare my twins less with others and to see each of them as a unique, often endearing, and fully human person. I jotted down delightful things they said, noted small steps of progress they made, and appreciated the importance of them in our family beyond what is measurable by any specialist.
Our children are created imago Dei, in the image of God, fallen but redeemed by Christ and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ, my twins have an unmatched Advocate and Defender. With this knowledge I am free to continue therapies, press on with academics, and teach the many things they need to know. If we are able to move forward in noticeable ways, we rejoice. If not, we press on knowing that the Lord is with us.
Today, whenever I see other families make progress I rejoice greatly! May God continue to give us gratitude and humility on our hearty days with mercy and wisdom on our weaker days as we love, respect, and teach the unique children entrusted to each of us.