Let’s start with me..I was a 4-year-old blond-haired, blue-eyed mess. I was that child….the child teachers rolled their eyes at….hair out of place, messy hand-me-down clothes, free lunch child from the projects, who was always dirty. I was pig-headed, street-savvy, and most of all labeled “not willing to learn.” Not AUTISM.
Nothing like her brother, they would whisper behind my back. I ate paste, played loudly in the block area, used my scissors to cut my clothes, and refused all efforts to act like everyone else. I hung upside down from the monkey bars and jumped from the top of the slide, acting like an uncaged animal instead of a prim and proper little girl. Still…no diagnosis of Autism or ADHD.
Then there was my teacher, a fun-loving ball of sunshine. She couldn’t understand a child who refused her hugs when greeted at the door. A child who didn’t learn by doing worksheets at the tiny table but made a mess anywhere she went. A child who outwardly would defy all requests to come to circle time and would wet her pants rather than use the classroom bathroom. A child who would smile with relief when the teacher broke down and yelled, “go to the office.” In the 70s, teachers were not trained to deal with that child, and that child was me. Girls were not easily labeled with Autism, so there I sat labeled as the wild child that didn’t belong.
And then there was my Principal. The one who made a special spot in her office for me (full of learning toys and manipulatives), the one who gave me an anytime pass to use her bathroom (and leave it unflushed), the one who got me. Of my 180 days of Kindergarten, I spent 170 of them in her office. She didn’t call my mom every time I was sent there. She ordered a special nontoxic paste so that I wouldn’t get sick. She allowed me to eat alone in her office because I wouldn’t eat in front of others. She let me know that many people would not get me, but it was OK to be me.
The lessons I learned in Kindergarten have guided me through my entire life….” the world is not going to change for you but don’t you dare change for the world” were her parting words for me as she kicked me out of Public Schools at the meer age of 5. She did it for me. She helped make me who I am today…. a strong, independent woman with Autism that will fight for anyone to be whomever they need to be.
–Alicia Frye, Spectrum Parents Mom