I asked Emma if I could write about a conversation she had with Soma last week. She told me I could.
Emma told Soma she wanted to open a day care center. When Soma asked her what she’d call it, Emma wrote, “Emma’s Hope Care.” Soma then asked what the philosophy of the center would be and Emma wrote, “No Autistic child left behind.” And then a little later Emma wrote, “early education” and “no behavior management.” Soma asked Emma where this center would be located, Emma wrote that she intended to have several, but that the headquarters would be in Chicago. I smiled when she wrote that as my brother and his wife live nearby as does our friend Ibby, or as Emma calls her, “Ibby from Ibbia”. Emma also said there would be a center in New York.
This was an easy back and forth conversation, with Soma giving her thoughts about things then asking Emma for her thoughts or Emma volunteering her opinion without being asked. Emma pointed to letters on a laminated alphabet board while Soma spoke, and on it went. It was an example of something most speaking people take for granted. We do not think twice about exchanging an idea with another, asking questions about things we don’t understand, listening to the other person, formulating an opinion, discussing, perhaps disagreeing, but in the end each person coming away with more information than they had before entering into the conversation.
I was fascinated to hear that my daughter knew about the “no child left behind” bill, passed by the United States Senate in June of 2001 and signed into law in January, 2002. I also wondered if her comment, “No Autistic child left behind”, was said with a touch of irony and humor, perhaps even sarcasm, as the current situation in so many special education schools in New York City, both public and private, are leaving a great many Autistic children behind. In fact children, like my daughter, are regularly put into classrooms where a high school diploma is not a given, much less a goal. Not only has Emma told me she wants to get a high school diploma, but she intends to go to college as well.
But what I loved most about what Emma wrote was her obvious compassion for others and her desire to do good. Last fall she wrote about wanting to visit “old people” and then added, or “people in a cancer hospital.” Funny how when you listen and watch what Autistic people are saying and doing, it is not in keeping with what so many non autistic “professionals” are saying about them.
A completely unrelated photograph of Emma holding Teddy.