On Monday, September 15th, as the second full week of school began, I visited Hayden's third grade class for my annual fragile x chat with the students. I usually put some sort of goody bags together-- pencils, stickers, etc-- but this year I found mini playing dough with stamper lids which I thought were great. I rolled up the parent flyer, & this year I also included a kid-friendly brochure from the NFXF. The parent flyer basically says that I visited the class to talk about fragile x, how each of us is unique & fun, & that we read a book about accepting differences & encouraging kindness. The brochures I distributed have easy-to-understand verbiage about interacting with a child with fragile x.
This year I decided to begin by reading the book, & then I explained why I was there. I talked about fragile x being something that Hayden was born with & that it's not something you can catch like a cold. I said it just means that he learns things in his own time.
I asked if they noticed anything different about Hayden but I offered an example to get the conversation going. I talked about how he scrunches his hands together sometimes when he is happy or excited. There were lots of different things that the kids noticed about him such as the chair he uses, the way he "scribble scrabbles" instead of writing, & sometimes if he's having a tough time in the morning (for example) he is happy when they see him at lunch. I explained that in his mind there is so much going on when he enters a room, because he sees & hears everything at once... or if he is switching from one activity to the next... these things can make him seem unsettled. I said that it was great that they noticed these things because it means they're paying attention... & that it's okay to notice differences as long as we do not make fun of someone for them.
I said it might be difficult sometimes to see why something is tough for him. So for example if you hurt yourself & you had a cast, it's something we could all see & we would immediately understand why you were moving differently. But when you look at Hayden, it's not so easy to see why he could be having a hard time. One little boy smiled & raised his arm to show me his cast (which I hadn't even noticed), & I thought that was great. (They totally get it...)
I asked the kids about things they like to do at home or places they like to go, & pointed out how Hayden likes most of the same things, too. (His interest in the iPad is always something they have in common.) But I also wanted to offer his perspective as well, & spoke about how certain places can make Hayden feel overwhelmed. One little girl said she loves Disney, & I said Hayden loves rides, too-- but that sort of place is tough for him because there is a lot of waiting, a lot of people, & a lot going on. One boy said he likes going to his Dad's & I said how much Hayden loves spending time with family, too. And another student said they like to go to certain games (I didn't catch the team name), but I explained how Hayden went to a professional basketball game once-- he liked it for only a little while but enjoyed it while he was there. And there were many kids who raised their hand & said something which Hayden does like just the same-- such as the park, etc.
At one point near the beginning of the conversation a little girl raised her hand to tell me that she thought Hayden was a good person. I said he thinks all of you are great, too, & he learns from you just as much as he does from the teacher.
Overall it went really well-- I am always nervous about doing this every year, but afterwords I am always glad I did.