To raising Autism awareness and Acceptance, and battling negative stereotypes about Autism.
To advocate for the inclusion of Autistic people in the community.
To offer a forum to broadcast our stories and thoughts, and to help the messages of Autistic people and non-Austistic allies reach as many people as possible.
Let me tell you a true story about a small town in rural New Zealand with a community of less than twenty thousand. Not just Cambridge by name but also Cambridge by education akin to the world's most elite university.
This week my wife and I braced ourselves for the bi-annual Individual Education Plan (I.E.P.) for our twelve year old daughter at the local middle school. A group discussion involving eight adults and a young child - daunting by all accounts. I take care not to share that I am an active autism advocate so as not to add further complication to an involved process.
Will they cut her funding?
Is she getting her allocated hours or is the school 'pooling' the funds?
Are the teachers trained and equipped?
Is her teacher aide helping or herding?
Is our daughter being meaningfully included in all activities?
What unfurled was emotional and inspirational.
Her co-teachers understood our daughter's needs - they make the time to ensure she stays abreast - they have created an inclusive class culture where the kids take her with them on every venture, they also refuse options that take her away from the mainstream. Their compassion, empathy and respect is over whelming.
Her two teacher aides - so in touch, relevant and celebrating her astonishing personality. A exceptional triad stretching and comforting one another ensuring challenges are dealt to.
The wonderful representative from the Ministry of Education who listened, directed, suggested and inspired - so sharp with the business at hand yet pertinent to our daughters inclusion and buy-in.
The professional facilitating of the assistant principal showed passion and kept the discussion focused, relevant and uncomplicated.
Did I expect this - not by a long shot considering my involvement and the current publicity of so much that goes wrong in the world of Autism. Here in this precious community people were listening , suggesting, solving and celebrating without prejudice or agenda.
The meeting wound up with each professional recapping their role in the plan of action for the next six months then asked our thoughts.
In the same confidence my daughter portrayed throughout the session she requested the same teachers next year - which in itself says it all. Apart from my wife's comment. "This is the happiest we've seen her."
Inclusion = Unconditional Love + Intent Listening + Meaningful Support + Respect the Individual
Heads up and gratitude to everyone involved throughout the country - IEP can work, it does work. All that needs to change is the 'I' to read Inclusive Education Plan.