Wednesday, January 26, 2022

There's Still Magic

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic my in-person presentations have been almost nonexistent. While health and safety are of the utmost importance, I have been filled with sorrow on the lack of presentations I've had in schools. Someday I hope you get the chance to see one of these presentations because if you want true hope for the future all you have to do is witness the magic that happens.

My school presentation lacks anything remotely considered flashy as it's just me, speaking, for 22 minutes and then the magic happens as I open the floor for questions. So often I have to fight back tears at the well thought out and compassionate questions from students that aren't on the spectrum, but then the waterworks are almost impossible to hold back when a student on the spectrum advocates for themself. 

Last month, right before the Omicron spike, I got the chance and absolute honor to return to a school that I had been an annual tradition. On that day, while driving to the school, I was immensely worried as to how the presentation would go and that's in regard to not just my ability to speak but what would students have the same level on inquisitiveness? Would that same level of compassion that I wish could be bottled up and when you're having a bad day you could open the bottle and know that there's so much good in this world? 

There was a new principal at this school as the previous one that had booked me for, gosh, eight years or so, so she had a hint of skepticism as to what was going to happen at my presentation to the whole 6th grade as I had no PowerPoint, no props, and no "flash". I was skeptical too and I tried not to show it as I got introduced to the 250 or so students.

Presenting is much like riding a bike and while my comedic timing was a tad bit off to begin the rust was quickly shaken off. However, I had no idea if I was holding the audience in the palm of my hand of if they were waiting to toss me aside and get back to their regularly scheduled schoolwork. The masks made it impossible to know and when the 22nd minute ended I almost pleaded when I said, "And now it's your turn. I have no idea what you know or want to know so the floor is open, and I know no one ever wants to ask the first question so..." and before I could finish the almost begging for questions the first hand was raised and the magic was there.

"I heard people on the spectrum like routines, is this true?" 

"I know several of my classmates have Asperger's, how can I be a friend when things get tough?"

It was question after question of pure magic. Truly, and I know I've said this, I wish you could witness this for just two minutes. In the midst of our currently chaotic and unpredictable world I'm so glad to know that kids are still as kind as I found them to be in my very first school presentation. I was worried as our world speeds up with all of our technology, cynicism increases, and we learn of a new Greek letter every two months which may or may not change the way we go about our lives kids are still wanting to know about this thing called autism and from that the future seeds of understanding will be beautiful. 

Leaving the school that day was almost like some major life event that was coming to an end because there's no telling when my next school presentation will be. I know it's needed, and I know there are thousands upon thousands of kids out there that have the same sentiment I had when I discovered writing as a medium to express myself when I wrote, "All I want is for someone, anyone to understand me and when that happens, I might just be free..." I know this to be true because the one question that almost knocked me onto the floor was when I called on a student that had their hand up for at least a dozen straight minutes, asked after 10 seconds of gaining their composure, "Yes, um, I, I, I fidget my hands a lot and some kids have made fun of me. Could you explain what it is and why we do it?" I'll remember that question, and the absolute silence of 250 sixth graders as they waited for my answer, forever.

1 comment:

  1. My niece has Asperger’s and I have enjoyed your insights.