Special Needs Now

Bravo! Third Grader Teaches Class About His Autism, Acceptance Grows

Brave young Jackson Cook stood in front of his classmates to tell them about the ways his brain works differently.

jackson explaining autism NBC News
Kids with autism want to express themselves. They want their voices to be heard, and—as is clear from my interview with incredible young bloggers Philip and Emma— they have a lot to say.

I saw this in action yesterday during an RPM lesson with my own son, Liam, a non-speaking 7-year-old, as we started using a new type-to-speak app for his iPad. We started simple, with typing his name and me asking him questions about himself. Imagine my delight and surprise when he typed: LIAM PACTON IS A SMART BOY. HE IS 7 YEARS OLD. I LIKE FUN.

Then, proud of himself and happy to hear his "voice," my son danced around the room, giggling and grinning.

liam pacton type to talk Jamie Pacton

We're just at the beginning of Liam being able to express his thoughts and feelings, but I was inspired and touched by a video I saw yesterday that shows Jackson Cook, a child with autism, bravely standing in front of his third grade class, talking to them about the ways his brain works differently. After asking his class if they know what autism is, he says: "It makes some parts of my brain work really well, and some parts not work really well."

He then explains some of the things that are hard for him and adds, "My brain, just like yours, can do some pretty amazing things."

I love seeing moments like this—moments when kids with autism get a chance to be heard, when they get to explain neurodiversity, and when they get to be self-advocates. I can see why Jackson's mom told reporters that, "he feels more empowered."

One word, one sentence, one speech, one child at a time— that's how autism acceptance grows. Like Jackson's classmates, I applaud his bravery in talking about his challenges and gifts, and I can't wait to hear what my own "non-verbal" son has to say today.

Jamie Pacton lives near Portland where she drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons. Find her at www.jamiepacton.comFacebook (Jamie Pacton), and Twitter @jamiepacton.

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