The post below is written by Lynn Balter, a parent, volunteer and board member of Kids Who Care. After Lynn presented to a large group of 7th graders at Cocopah Middle School in Scottsdale, Arizona, one student was brave enough to believe in herself and was able to tell her personal story to her peers. That day, those 7th grade students became a little wiser and definitely more accepting of kids with on the autism spectrum.
My name is Lynn Balter and I am on the board of Kids Who Care. In addition, my husband and I have been involved in the Phoenix Walk Now For Autism Speaks since its inception. We chaired “The Walk” one year and also have a child with autism. I had the very fortunate opportunity to make a presentation to Cocopah Middle School’s 7th graders about autism and Asperger’s. I volunteered that day to raise awareness about autism and the annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks. I shared facts and told the students about the types of behaviors of people with autism and Asperger’s, along with some of my personal stories.
I will forever be grateful that I could be a part of some of the miracles that happen when we parents and our children’s teachers create a generation of kids who care. As I was telling the students about some of the facts and behaviors that relate to autism and Asperger’s, many of the students were raising their hands and asking questions. I find the students are always interested as there are so many students that are affected in some way with the rising numbers in autism. After I had gone over many details, especially how hard it is for some people with autism to be accepted for their differences, a little 7th grade girl in the front row raised her hand. She was shaking and clearly was very afraid of what she was about to have the courage to say. When I called on her, she said with a shaky voice,
“I was diagnosed with Asperger’s just two weeks ago. I have gone to school with many of you since I was in kindergarten, I have always felt that I was not accepted and I didn’t know why so many things were so hard for me either, but now I know why. Could you all please try to understand and help me more now? My parents are so upset and I am confused.”
After she spoke, I realized that many of the students were crying and so was the teacher that was sitting in the back of the room. Many of the students got up and hugged this little girl. I told the children… that is exactly why we are here today, learning about autism, Kids Who Care and how we can all make the world a better place for kids who have autism or Asperger’s. I told the kids, we can all learn to accept one another, we can be good to one another and we can support each other by doing fun community service activities like the Walk Now for Autism Speaks.
I told the students how each year we count on school-age teams from all over the valley to help make a difference in the lives of so many individuals and their families who are affected by autism. And that we all made a difference in that 7th grade assembly that day, because we made it a little less scary for one of your fellow classmates to have the courage to reach out to all of you, to tell her story and learn how to accept her own differences.
That was one of the most gratifying days of my life. If not for Kids Who Care, my son, the rest of my family, Autism Speaks and SARRC, I would have never had the chance to see this miracle take place… of kids accepting another child with Asperger’s. It was truly beautiful.
About Kids Who Care
Kids Who Care, Inc. inspires students to love learning and be socially responsible through a program called The ABC’s of Service – Accepting differences, Being good to one another, and combining Community Service with Academics. Our goal is for all students to learn by doing; in other words, practicing skills, they study and acquire in the classroom, out in the community. It doesn’t matter the grade or the subject, our organization encourages every student to be a kid who cares.
Kids Who Care’s staff reaches out to schools in Arizona to create teams for the Walk Now for Autism Speaks, Phoenix event. Along with the staff at Autism Speaks and SARRC (Southwest Autism Research and Rehabilitation Center), we visit schools to raise awareness and organize the school-age teams for the walk.