When Autism Really Speaks...

...the experience will take you by surprise.

When I began teaching theatre three weeks ago, I was taken aback by one of the school's policies. The school has an all inclusion policy, where students with special needs are included with the mainstream curriculum.  My first class of the day began with a pre-kindergarten class.  I had three special needs children accompanied by their aids. Given instructional theatre is very vocal and participatory, I was unsure if I would be able to connect with these students or not. Although this was a new experience for both them and me, they were all very excited to participate.

One of the students in particular, Bishop*, left me absolutely speechless. Having a best friend who has an autistic son, I felt he might have a high level of autism, but I wasn’t certain if he had been fully tested. I observed him watching me working with his fellow classmates but he always opted not to join in.

This particular lesson, I had my students take center stage with a pretend microphone in hand. They were instructed to say "I am somebody"'with their most ferocious lion voice. They all enjoyed their single moment in the spotlight.  As I finished with the last student, I saw Bishop slowly approaching me and was reaching for the pretend microphone, so I held it in front of him. He was hesitant at first but then slowly opened his mouth for what seem like minutes. A few seconds later, he blurted out in his fiercest lion voice, I AM SOMEBODY.  

I looked at his aid and she looked at me.  I asked her  if she thought he would do it again.  This time she took out her cell phone to record it.  He reached for the pretend microphone and once again in his fiercest lion voice he belted out I AM SOMEBODY.  While his proud classmates erupted in applause, I could feel my eyes becoming misty.

Being an educator and an appreciator of performing arts, I was absolutely humbled to witness Bishop's transformation. This is truly a teaching moment I will remember forever. If you would like to find out more information about Autism, I suggest you visit the Autism Speaks website. It is a wonderful site and organization.