Flying Through the Door toward Acceptance
Have you ever been in the middle of a chicken coop, while they are fluttering around and pecking each other? Picture a small classroom of 24 kindergarten students and the visions are quite similar. Kindergarteners, as you know, move and squirm with excitement and, then there was me. I not only moved and squirmed, but on occasion simply bolted from once place to another. The lights were overpowering, such as lightning flashing overhead, on top of a mountain. The children’s noises were so loud, I felt like I was in a large tin can while a whole band of drummers beat on the can in rhythm to the music of shuffling feet, papers flapping, coughing, and sneezing from children in the room, let alone the noises of the fluorescent lights and humming from the heater or air conditioner. I started kindergarten when I was six years old. I had some school experience prior to kindergarten while I attended Tiger Cubs, an early childhood special education class in Macon. But, the kindergarten class was so much different. Even though I had a full time aide, my cousin Amy Binder, I felt lost and alone. Remember the chicken coop vision? Well, I was the chicken that fluttered around wanting and craving acceptance, knowing it was not going to come easily. You see, I was unable to communicate with anyone which might as well meant I lived on a completely different planet. Except, I very much was there, causing havoc in a group of children that didn’t understand.Not only did they not understand me, most of the world at that time didn’t either. Autism had just started to get public attention, but definitely not in our little world. However, thank God for television. Because of this certain form of media, my aide, Amy, was watching 20/20 and saw a form of facilitation, where children were able to write with pressure being put on their hand by an adult. She immediately thought of me and came to school with great excitement. Thus, the first steps out of the chicken coop were about to happen.I went to school like any other day, filled with desire to be there, however, sad, knowing I was trapped in my own body. I heard Amy talking to Mrs. Yount about her discovery and I was immediately overjoyed. I just knew that this moment was going to be one I would never forget. And I was right. As Amy picked up the pencil and placed it in my hand, she put her hand on mine, as I am sure she had seen the night before. Instantly the coop door was opened and I flew out into the world of communication. I wrote not only a word but a complete sentence, spelled correctly. That moment was indescribable. I felt free of the chains that had been holding me back for six years. And believe me when I say, I had waited for this moment for a long time. I knew that life as I knew it had changed in that one sentence.Suddenly, I was a real person, with thoughts and feelings that can only be discovered through communication. I was no longer the boy who cried or laughed for “no apparent reason”, that my mother and I had been told was a sign of autism. So, now I could tell others, if they cared to inquire, why I was filled with grief or elated with joy.Joy is a great expression for that day, because for the first time I was able to ask for things, express my anger or frustrations, or simply express my love for my family. And love and gratitude is what I felt toward Amy Binder that day and every day of my life. She allowed me to be visible to the eye. Before communication I was invisible and stuck in the deepest, darkest corner of that unbearable chicken coop.

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Flying Through the Door toward Acceptance
Have you ever been in the middle of a chicken coop, while they are fluttering around and pecking each other? Picture a small classroom of 24 kindergarten students and the visions are quite similar. Kindergarteners, as you know, move and squirm with excitement and, then there was me. I not only moved and squirmed, but on occasion simply bolted from once place to another. The lights were overpowering, such as lightning flashing overhead, on top of a mountain. The children’s noises were so loud, I felt like I was in a large tin can while a whole band of drummers beat on the can in rhythm to the music of shuffling feet, papers flapping, coughing, and sneezing from children in the room, let alone the noises of the fluorescent lights and humming from the heater or air conditioner. I started kindergarten when I was six years old. I had some school experience prior to kindergarten while I attended Tiger Cubs, an early childhood special education class in Macon. But, the kindergarten class was so much different. Even though I had a full time aide, my cousin Amy Binder, I felt lost and alone. Remember the chicken coop vision? Well, I was the chicken that fluttered around wanting and craving acceptance, knowing it was not going to come easily. You see, I was unable to communicate with anyone which might as well meant I lived on a completely different planet. Except, I very much was there, causing havoc in a group of children that didn’t understand.Not only did they not understand me, most of the world at that time didn’t either. Autism had just started to get public attention, but definitely not in our little world. However, thank God for television. Because of this certain form of media, my aide, Amy, was watching 20/20 and saw a form of facilitation, where children were able to write with pressure being put on their hand by an adult. She immediately thought of me and came to school with great excitement. Thus, the first steps out of the chicken coop were about to happen.I went to school like any other day, filled with desire to be there, however, sad, knowing I was trapped in my own body. I heard Amy talking to Mrs. Yount about her discovery and I was immediately overjoyed. I just knew that this moment was going to be one I would never forget. And I was right. As Amy picked up the pencil and placed it in my hand, she put her hand on mine, as I am sure she had seen the night before. Instantly the coop door was opened and I flew out into the world of communication. I wrote not only a word but a complete sentence, spelled correctly. That moment was indescribable. I felt free of the chains that had been holding me back for six years. And believe me when I say, I had waited for this moment for a long time. I knew that life as I knew it had changed in that one sentence.Suddenly, I was a real person, with thoughts and feelings that can only be discovered through communication. I was no longer the boy who cried or laughed for “no apparent reason”, that my mother and I had been told was a sign of autism. So, now I could tell others, if they cared to inquire, why I was filled with grief or elated with joy.Joy is a great expression for that day, because for the first time I was able to ask for things, express my anger or frustrations, or simply express my love for my family. And love and gratitude is what I felt toward Amy Binder that day and every day of my life. She allowed me to be visible to the eye. Before communication I was invisible and stuck in the deepest, darkest corner of that unbearable chicken coop.

I