Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Teacher's Question

SS writes:

Dear Philip,
I read in your blog how much you dislike it when people talk as if you are not there. I am a drama teacher, and I have students with autism in my class. I often have trouble knowing how to help my other students understand how to communicate with my autistic students without feeling as if I am doing that very thing - speaking as if they are not in the room. Can you help me with this? Thank you!

To Ms. S,

I am going to tell you this story. Before in school I caught teachers talking about each student each day as if we were not listening. They said poor things about us. They said we are lazy and defiant. I heard a lot in school I am not smart. It was awful to imagine they assumed I am retarded. I felt so small. I am now at a regular school.  Teachers now know I am smart. They talk to me and not about me. I am much happier now.

You can write a letter to your regular students to introduce your autistic students. Tell them we are smart and to speak normally to us even if we don't respond like a normal person. We are listening. We love friends too.



A classroom in California greets its students and all who enter with Philip's words:

"Today try to make our lives better by understanding us and accepting us as we are.  Include us in your lives.  Talk to us even if we don't respond.  We are listening.  
I am storing up happy memories with every person's kindness."  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Eye Contact

D writes:

Hi Philip,

My sister, who has a son with autism, just told me about your page. I am a big admirer of what you're doing.

I am trying to learn everything I can about what life is like for my nephew so I can interact with him better. As I'm only just discovering your page, I'm not sure if you've covered this topic before: Why is it so difficult to make eye contact with people? For me, it was always hard to communicate with my nephew because I used to think he wasn't paying attention since he was looking away or stimming, which made it seem like it was impossible for him to hear what I was saying. I know better now, but would love to find out more about what it's like. Thank you for opening up your world to us - you are an inspiration! 


Coral Springs, Florida

Philip writes:

I am letting you know about eye contact. My eyes see very well. Most people seem to need to have to look long and hard to make sense of a picture. I can take in a whole picture at a glance. Each day I see too many little petty details. I look away to not get overwhelmed by a lot of little bits of information. I watch things a teacher or person I listen to tell me to watch. This helps me concentrate on what I should be focusing on. I can search for a teacher's voice to try to focus on. I am academically learning best when I sit side by side with a teacher. A seat on the side keeps me focused on your voice, and not on visual distractions. I am assessing many sounds too. I have to erase some stimuli to access my answers to people's questions and meet their demands. That is why I don't make eye contact. I am always listening. I listen a lot to voices. I so love when people talk to me and are not talking like I am not there. I am active because I am unable to feel my body well. People think I am being rude but I can't help it.  I need to move to feel my body but sitting down at least helps me not walk away from you. Please peacefully talk to your nephew. Let him know you understand. I am sad when people think I don't like them. I love people.

Corrales, New Mexico, Christmas 2014

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


A writes: 
Hi Philip! Thank you for offering to answer our questions! Anyway, my question is about how to introduce my son to new people. He is six years old by the way. He does not speak or use a letter board yet.

For instance, some new people moved into the house next door to us, and when I saw them in the yard the other day I introduced myself. My son came over and the neighbors said "hi" to him, but of course he didn't give them a verbal response. I said to the neighbors, "This is B." Then said to B, "B, these are our new neighbors!" He kind of started running away or something, so I said to the neighbors, B is autistic and does not speak, but he understands you and is very friendly." Do you think this was the right thing to say?

Sometimes children will say "hi" to B at the park, but he cannot say hi back, or use his body to wave or anything like that. I'm not sure if I should say something to the other child to help them understand my son is not being rude or that he doesn't want to play. Or maybe if I said something it would embarrass B, and I should just let the kids work it out on their own.

Is there a certain way that you want your family to introduce you, or are there certain things you do not want them to say to others about you? I want to help my son be social, but I don't want to embarrass him or share personal information without his permission.

Sorry if this question is confusing. It's hard for me to put things into words sometimes. Thank you and your mom so much for your time, and I understand if you don't get a chance to respond. Have a great day!

Hi A, I have a hard time meeting new people. I mean to make fears of new people less. I feel misunderstood by people who don't know me. I feel helpless to introduce myself. I need my mom to help. You can help your son by introducing him and explaining why he doesn't play or talk. I think people are more understanding when they know I am autistic. Opportunities to learn about autism at great length are reading books describing autism by autistic authors like Ido Kedar and Naoki Higashida. I think you can tell them your son understands everything. He wants to be able to cease pacing and be able to talk and play. Autism is a different way to experience the world. I listen well, hearing each word. But my body doesn't accept my mind's awesome instructions well. Kids accepting me as their friend can make life more joyous.
From, Philip

Lisa's note:  We have found it useful to have Philip write a letter to his classmates at the very beginning of each school year.  We have also shared his letter with kids at church and other activities.  Prior to Philip being able to write his own letter we shared a letter by Ido Kedar called "Imagine Having Autism." (click highlighted letters to read them) Helping educate people about Philip and autism has allowed him to feel more comfortable with others and enjoy the blessings of friendship and relationships.

Philip taking part in Pinewood Derby last year.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I Am Malala

By Philip

Malala is a hero to me. I think she made many courageous acts to get an education and insist on the same right to education for all mankind. I admire how she spoke out against the talk of the mullahs who said it was wrong to educate girls. She followed Allah and the Koran. She ate halal. She did not disobey her religion. The Taliban made up rules to abuse people. The men of the Taliban were the ones applying their religion wrongly. Peace was nowhere to be found under the Taliban. Learning was banned for all girls. Malala would not stop her education or saying the Taliban each day committed terrible injustices. Pakistan was a violent place to live in. Malala risked her life to save the right to go to school. Malala was shot in the head for what she stood for.  But God miraculously saved her. The person who shot her was forgiven. I admire her for letting peace put her mind to good use instead of revenge. Learn from her example, not from terrorists. Malala became even more recognized and brought her cause to the whole world's attention. She spoke at the United Nations. Pakistan passed law to educate all boys and girls. Malala’s power was more power than the terrorists. I am Malala. 

*Lisa's note- Philip has been learning about Malala Yousafzai from her memoir "I Am Malala" and from watching news specials and Malala's speeches.  She is a role model for so many, and I would say especially for Autistic children.  Even though Malala is not Autistic, she made her voice and position heard in a culture that denied women a voice and an education.  The world listened.  Because of her bravery, Malala has been able to affect the change she so passionately believes in.  There are still many Autistic voices needing to be heard in America and all over the world.  We must do all we can to help pave the way towards better methods of communication and accommodation, quality education, opportunities for inclusion, and acceptance of all Autistic people as contributing members of society.  Malala inspires us to bravely speak and act to bring about the change we want to see.