One book I wish every educator could read is Ido in Autismland by Ido Kedar. It is the writings of a boy with Autism who, in his own words says, he climbed out of the silent prison of Autism. He was unable to communicate with those around him until the age of seven and his book offers profound insights into what it is like to live life with the inability to communicate, control your body’s behaviors and show your intelligence.
His mother Tracy Kedar says, “The ideas in this book challenge many assumptions long held by professionals working with autistic people. In our own experience, Ido broke free in spite of, not because of, the mainstream thinking today.”
Ido shares painful essays that tell of his suffering during the early years of his education. He said, “I could read from an early age. I could write too, only my fingers were too clumsy to show it. In school I sat though ABC tapes over and over and I added 1+2=3 over and over. It was a nightmare. I was bored out of my wits. It made me die inside. I was like a zombie inside because I had no hope.” Can you even imagine having the world assume you lacked intelligence that you had no way to express? A silent prison indeed.
Now I adore the educators who work with my son and other students with special needs, they are all angels in my mind and my sincere gratitude towards them can hardly be expressed. I know the work they do day in and day out isn’t easy and I know they are doing their very best. But what I do hope for them, and all educators working with children with Autism, is that they stop, and take a moment to have an Autism Shift. Because I believe the good they do will be accelerated by a shift in the way they view the potential and capabilities of students on the spectrum.
Ido wasn’t exposed to a general curriculum in school because he was thought to lack the ability to read, write or understand simple concepts, but he tells us again and again, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Ido gives four recommendations to educators working with kids with Autism to help them reach their full potential:
Talk normally to students with Autism
Teach students with Autism grade level lessons so that they learn the same material as their typical peers.
Teach exercises that give students more communication between body and brain and strengthen their muscular weaknesses.
Help students with non-verbal Autism find their voice. He says the picture exchange communication system is not enough. Sign language can be hard for kids with fine motor deficit and hand apraxia. He recommends the use of letter boards because they “offer full communication and are easier to master for hand apraxic people.” Ido learned to use the letter board from Soma Mukhopadhyay, who he credits for rescuing him from isolation. Now he can use a computer to type his inner thoughts to help change the way individuals with non-verbal Autism are viewed.
Ido wants to influence a new generation of teachers and parents to see that his situation is not unique, that there are countless numbers of kids with non-verbal Autism suffering as he did. But they don't have to, and the first step in making sure this doesn't continue to happen is to believe in individuals with Autism's greater potential and then do something about it.