You know the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Unfortunately, it seems hard for some people not to judge when they see kids making noise, flapping their hands, wiggling their fingers, carrying around assistive iPads, and lacking the social skills to blend in. There’s a certain education we give such students,trying to make their education fit the grade level standards. However, unlike most kids, people with autism don’t move in a linear direction for skills. They lack observational learning and don’t seem to be motivated by social interactions. They build splinter skills often lacking the foundation to be able to function smoothly in the world we have created.

What blows my mind is that sometimes I sit down with a kid that hasn’t met a goal in years, can’t sit still, and is loudly vocalizing and something amazing happens. They are actually more advanced in some ways than myself who has a teaching credential, masters degree and the title of Board Certified Behavior Analyst under my belt. So why then would I feel equipped to teach them?

I have seen amazing things! One kid can blow through advanced Unblock Me before I even process what’s on the game page. Another can look at a Google map for 5 seconds and then draw it perfectly from memory. I know a student who can memorize the birthdays of all 30 kids in the class. Another can hum any note you ask him to at the drop of a hat and with perfect pitch.

Why then are we not capitalizing on their abilities? Why are we keeping them boxed up and educating them alongside other students who are completely different? Instead of focusing on what they can do, and building education off of that, we stick them in classes with students with severe intellectual disabilities and ask them the same questions over and over again to mold them to what we think they should be. We need to stop focusing on making these students fit into our box of what we think they need to know and start challenging their minds where they need to be challenged. Parents and educators are both guilty here. We could be holding back the next Einstein or Mozart and missing out on something amazing and innovative.