creativewritingThe month of April in general shines the spotlight on Autism, but what about the other 335 days of the year? Will teachers, parents, principals, doctors, politicians, and organizations continue to spread awareness about Autism? I sure hope so and this article is my way of keeping the blue light shining bright so that we can continue to dispel myths and share hope about “learning differences.” As a part of the, Someone Like MeTM interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Wong, an OT (Occupational Therapist) from California. Bill is an example of what can happen when awareness is lacking. He was diagnosed at the age of 25 with Autism. Think this is a problem of the past? Well, it isn’t. There are students still in schools as we speak who have not been appropriately diagnosed. Sadly, students from some of the poorest schools are impacted even more. Bill’s story is an example to us all that we have to remain vigilant about being intentional of bringing awareness to not only Autism, but all disabilities. I was so inspired listening to Bill tell his story. He certainly dispels myths about what people with Autism can grow up to accomplish. He didn’t learn to speak until around age 3, but yet holds graduate degrees and is successfully working in a field where he has to interact with others daily. To think that for the majority of Bill’s schooling he didn’t receive accommodations of any kind is a testament to the spirit in him to want to achieve and to become a productive member of society. Bill proves there is a place for people, for all students, no matter the challenges or labels they carry. Bill is Someone Like MeTM, someone who has overcome the challenges of learning differences, while learning to managing the ones that remain. He is someone who shares his story with the hope that it brings awareness and inspires students with learning differences who all to easily withdraw into their own world because greater society doesn’t understand or respect their difference. Bill is someone who still lives with the impact of having a disability and working in a professional world. I was really able to identify with him as he stated why he does not always share his diagnosis too early and sometimes not at all. I would venture to say that if any person feels uneasy about disclosing about their disability, then it’s just a sign that we have more work to do. We have to do a better job of not focusing on the “difference” or the label, but on the person and their many assets. We have to do a better job as teachers to seek out people like Bill Wong and others with learning differences that are leading successful lives and present them to our students so they will know that they are not alone and that they can dare to become what they envision for themselves. A label does not have to prevent them from becoming productive members of society. Bill is their proof and he is also proof that he can work in an educational setting alongside educators and prepare our students for what lies ahead of them. Ways to spread awareness the other 335 days of the year:

Watch Bill’s interview  and share it with parents and students, especially someone who has Autism and would find hope in watching and listening to Bill. In fact, make it a part of your lesson. This is a great way to showcase those with disabilities and how they are able to contribute to society in spite of.

* Write a random fact on your board about Autism or about someone who has it.

* Share the Temple Grandin story. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

* Share something on social media. In fact, like Bill @BillWongOT and me @TheLDCoach and retweet the many positive things we share about Autism and learning differences in general. You can also find me on Facebook at Cindy Lumpkin, The LD Coach.

I am sure you can think of even more creative things. The point is let’s not let the conversation end with the month of April. Let’s keep talking, sharing and spreading hope.

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