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Jan
11

Comfort Zones and Hidden Abilities

By Courtney Hess

As a special education teacher working in an autism room, I always jump at the chance to hear Temple Grandin speak. One of my favorite quotes from her is, "I think sometimes parents and teachers fail to stretch kids. My mother had a very good sense of how to stretch me just slightly outside my comfort zone." Temple Grandin is a funny, motivated, hard-working speaker and she just happens to have autism. I was about 19 when I first heard Temple talk at a conference and this quote was what really stuck with me.

By Courtney Hess

As a special education teacher working in an autism room, I always jump at the chance to hear Temple Grandin speak. One of my favorite quotes from her is, "I think sometimes parents and teachers fail to stretch kids. My mother had a very good sense of how to stretch me just slightly outside my comfort zone." Temple Grandin is a funny, motivated, hard-working speaker and she just happens to have autism. I was about 19 when I first heard Temple talk at a conference and this was what really stuck with me.

Going through my undergraduate to get my teaching license, professors routinely said, "stick with schedules, stick with this curriculum, and everything will work for the best." While we all know that routine is typically important to someone on the spectrum, we can lose sight of the importance of pushing students to be able to see where they are at and where they can be. If we are so stuck on following routines and structures we may never find out that a student is good at art, or being a friend, or a musical instrument. The list of talents can go on and on, but we have to give students a chance to discover them.

One story that sticks with me was from my first year of teaching high school. I was a young teacher, right out of college, and I thought I had it all figured out with my fancy, new, reading comprehension packets. I was stuck on having all of my students (all who happened to be on the spectrum) follow the rules exactly. However, one day, I gave the students three choices for our reading comprehension assignment and what I saw amazed me. One student drew something right out of a book, one students wrote a new creative alternative end for the book, and one student wrote a letter from the point of view of the main character. I was blown away at the talent that I saw unfold in my classroom just because I chose to be flexible in my thinking.

Moving forward, I think when being around an individual with autism we should continue to find a balance between rigid schedules and flexible thinking.

No matter the path of life that we are in and in what ways we are impacted by autism, I think it is important to keep stretching our friends, family members, students with autism and they will continue to stretch us, in a positive way, as well.