One great thing about being a teacher assistant, instead of the main teacher of a subject, is that I get to spend time in different classes, seeing how kids on the autism spectrum react to different environments.
For example, one student focuses well in English class, but participates very little in music class. Another student does exactly the opposite – has trouble focusing in English class, but participates fully in music class, smiling and singing along.
The teachers here are trying very hard to provide the right balance of intellectual and sensory stimulation, enough to engage students without overwhelming them. It’s challenging, and there’s room for improvement, but that isn’t what I want to focus on today.
What I want to point out is how it can be easy to underestimate a child – or an adult – if you only see them in a place where they struggle. Moreover, it can be easy to brush off their need for support if you only see them in a place where they thrive.