We all have a story. Never underestimate someone’s capability without knowing theirs.
When I left home for university, I came across an ad for AT&T with the words, “Words change worlds!” printed across the page alongside a picture of Rosa Parks. I don’t know why she was there, but I kept the words with me.
The first school I ever volunteered in was a sixth-grade French immersion class in Waterloo. I was able to follow along with some basic words, but these kids put me to shame. I wish I had taken learning French more seriously. The teacher had asked me to hang out with a student called J. She was concerned with his rate of progress in comparison to the other students.
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One day the class was doing a science lesson, followed by a group assignment. Each group consisted of about four to five kids. I was assigned to supervise J’s group and another one.
The teacher gave us permission to go to the library and finish the assignment. The kids had to observe and record the lesson and experiment, which were about lights.
The kids went straight to work and pleaded with me to let them go on the computer once they had finished their assignment. I agreed, because I honestly thought that these kids needed to be kids; they were so wound up and were only a few disappointments away from having a nervous breakdown. Soon, mostly everyone was done, and the kids who had finished went back to the class to use the computers.
There were three kids left: H, I, and J. H and I finished and left me and J in the library. J was looking down at his paper. As I was sitting across from him, he crumpled up his paper and said, “F*** it! I’m sorry for wasting your time Mr. Ashman, I guess I am too stupid. I must be; everyone else finished so fast; I just hate this s***!”
He looked me in the eyes and tears were rolling down his cheeks. I reassured him that he was not stupid and should never think that of himself that way. All the positive messages from watching a seemingly endless amount of Saturday morning cartoons were flowing from my mouth.
Together we finished his project and went back to class. I explained the situation to the teacher, she wasn’t surprised. She wanted to tell me more, you could see it in her face, but she didn’t say anything to add to my story.
I hate it when kids think of themselves as being stupid, mainly because I used to think that of myself when I was younger, but look at me now!
My recalling of this story was inspired by Senior Diaz. “Young sir, always try your best, and let the results of your efforts be the only grade you concern yourself with.”
This article was featured in Issue 121 – Autism Awareness Month