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An Open Letter to My Son’s Teacher

Posted Jan 12 2010 12:00am

Dear Nigel’s Teacher,  

At the Scout meeting on Saturday, I know that you were laughing good-naturedly when Nigel worded something in an awkward way, and that you didn’t mean any harm, but I wanted to clarify for you what I said in response, because, as his teacher, it’s important for you to know. Nigel did not start talking until he was five years old, and the process from that point on was very difficult for him. I described this in the information sheets that I gave to all of his teachers at the IEP meeting in September in the hopes that his teachers would be patient and understanding when he has difficulty expressing himself verbally. This is one of the many ways that his autism affects him.  

When I said, “He does the best he can,” in response to your laughter, I meant that sometimes he is unable to formulate his word choice in a typical way, but he tries. He has always had difficulty using pronouns correctly. Sometimes he states something that’s obvious. Sometimes what he says can sound odd or off-the-wall to others, but he cannot help it, just as [another student] cannot help it when he stutters. When [the other student] stuttered at the meeting, no one laughed. And I really hope that when Nigel says something in the classroom that is obvious or might not make sense that you do not laugh in response. This sets a negative example for his peers, many of whom have bullied him in the past. This is why I had homeschooled him previously. It would be very upsetting if the bullying started again, as it would affect Nigel’s academics negatively along with his well-being.  

As I said, I know you did not mean any harm by laughing. I just wanted to make sure you realize that he cannot help it if he says something awkward. He has always tried so hard to communicate, and when he says something that doesn’t sound right, he shouldn’t be laughed at. Thank you for the work that you do as a teacher, and for your patience with my son. I know that a student with autism can be more difficult to teach, and I do appreciate all of your efforts.  

Sincerely,  

Tanya Savko

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