Last year, I had a brainstorm at the start of the school year. Mister Man wrote a letter to his teacher. He is on the spectrum but very high functioning to where most people don’t know he has autism but just that things are a little off. Needless to say, that makes the school day sometimes a little challenging and frustrating if you don’t know him, what sets him off, and how to keep him engaged in the classroom.
Rather than telling these things to his teacher during meet the teacher when he’s swamped with 25 other kids or trying to set up a separate meeting, I created a fun letter from him that talks about what makes him who he is and gives ideas to make things easier for everyone. I included pictures to make it easier to read and also made it into a booklet so that it’s less daunting. Short and sweet is the name of the game.
It went over so well that the social worker asked if he could share it amongst all the staff that works with him – the art teacher, the music teacher, the gym teacher, and more. So you know that this year I updated it and wrote a new one. It’s a great, simple introduction of my child and really makes him a child rather than someone at a desk.
My name is Mister Man, and I am so excited to be in your class this year. Last year was my first year at Grove, and it was fantastic thanks to a lot of amazing support and help I got over the course of the year. I am excited to start this year and have it be even better.
My mom says that I’m a really sweet kid, which has its pluses and minuses. I always want to help someone or stick up for them, but I don’t always do it in the best way. My heart is in the right place, though.
I love to learn, but I often think I already know everything and may try pointing that fact out. Except that I don’t always know it all, and I’m working on being more patient when people correct me. I am a “fact kid” and it’s so much fun to share what I know – or what I think I know. I’m getting better about group situations where not everyone has the same opinion and other people want to contribute, but it isn’t my strong suit.
Reading is one of my favorite things to do. In fact, if I have free time, that’s what I usually do. In the past, teachers have rewarded me with reading time when I finish my work, but unfortunately a lot of times that means that I rush through my work and don’t give it my best effort. If we’re reading in class, I get really wrapped up in it and sometimes get curious about what’s coming next, so I forget to stop when I’m supposed to, or I’ll page ahead when you’re talking to see what I can learn. Feel free to take away my book to keep me on task. It helps me remember to do what I’m supposed to.
Rushing through my work is a big problem for me. Because I think I know it already, I don’t always read the instructions, and I don’t do a great job of showing my work. Sometimes that means I forget steps or I don’t show my work when I really need to. Especially in math, I like to do it all in my head instead of showing my thought process, although I’m working on that.
Sometimes having me highlight the directions or labeling them 1, 2, 3 for steps helps. Or have me keep my paper upside down while you give instructions, so I’m not tempted to start working before I know what I’m really supposed to do.
Organization isn’t my strong suit. Sometimes, I forget to write down my assignments in my assignment notebook, or I don’t write down enough information to figure out what I am supposed to do when I get home. If you can check briefly to ensure I got down the important things, I’d really appreciate it. I did better last year with this, but it’s still a struggle sometimes.
I sometimes struggle with impatience, too. Remind me that you’re the teacher, and I’ll remember that you’re in charge and that this isn’t something where I always know what’s coming next or what the right answer is. It’s more because I’m so excited than any actual disrespect, so please understand that. I like to do things my way, which I know I can’t always do. When I get frustrated, my brain shuts down. I’m working to problem solve when I start to feel frustrated so I don’t get stuck on an issue.
I love to be challenged and engaged. When I’m learning something new, I’m happy and focused on that. I don’t like to fail, however, and sometimes I get really frustrated and give up or don’t want to try when it’s too hard. Remind me to take a breath and think through the steps. That helps me a lot, as I can do it – I just hate when things aren’t easy because too many things academically have been.
Socially, I struggle sometimes. I made a lot of friends last year, and some will be in my class again this year. That said, I can be easily led into crossing the line because I don’t think about consequences, and I’m not good at hiding what I’ve done or lying. So if I do something wrong, I get caught. I’m trying to recognize who some of the kids are who aren’t really my friends but just want to get me in trouble, as well as the people who target me because they know I’ll overreact to things like tossing pieces of paper at me. If you can help me recognize those situations and remind me to stay out of them, it’ll help everyone in the class, I’m sure.
I tend to talk louder than I should, although a pinching motion with your fingers reminds me to turn the volume down. I also forget to look at people when I’m talking, and I rock back and forth when standing. Reminding me of “eyes” and “rocking” helps me realize what I’m doing. I also jump up and down when I’m excited, but I’m trying to remember to stop that. Last year, I started chewing on pencils a lot, but I know that’s gross, and I have stopped. If you see me start again, remind me that I’m doing it, and I’ll stop. My mom thanks you!
I’m also not super coordinated, part of my issues with motor planning and fine motor skills. Gym is hard for me. I run awkwardly and slowly, and my hand eye coordination leaves a bit to be desired. For that reason, I don’t love sports, which sets me apart from my peers. I do Tae Kwon Do, though, and I love it. I know that it’s not ok to demonstrate it in school, however.
Last year, Mrs. Teacher always tried to catch me when it looked like I was daydreaming. When I can’t answer every question, I’ll stare off into space, but every time she called on me, I had the answer. I’m not good at faking attention when I’m not actively participating, but I’m working on it, as I know I can’t answer every question. That said, if I don’t answer you right away or am in my own world, touching me on the shoulder and saying my name reminds me to stay in the classroom instead of thinking deep thoughts. It’s the best way to get my attention. Sometimes, calling me “X” instead of Mister Man helps get my attention better, too.
I’m excited to be in your class this year, and I can’t wait for it to start. Please be patient with me, and when I’ve done something wrong, if you can explain what I did that was wrong, that will help me, as I don’t always know why I got in trouble, just that I did something I wasn’t supposed to do.