An Open Letter to My Son’s Teacher

Dear Nigel’s Teacher,  

At the Scout meeting on Saturday, I know that you were laughing good-naturedly when Nigel worded something in an awkward way, and that you didn’t mean any harm, but I wanted to clarify for you what I said in response, because, as his teacher, it’s important for you to know. Nigel did not start talking until he was five years old, and the process from that point on was very difficult for him. I described this in the information sheets that I gave to all of his teachers at the IEP meeting in September in the hopes that his teachers would be patient and understanding when he has difficulty expressing himself verbally. This is one of the many ways that his autism affects him.  

When I said, “He does the best he can,” in response to your laughter, I meant that sometimes he is unable to formulate his word choice in a typical way, but he tries. He has always had difficulty using pronouns correctly. Sometimes he states something that’s obvious. Sometimes what he says can sound odd or off-the-wall to others, but he cannot help it, just as [another student] cannot help it when he stutters. When [the other student] stuttered at the meeting, no one laughed. And I really hope that when Nigel says something in the classroom that is obvious or might not make sense that you do not laugh in response. This sets a negative example for his peers, many of whom have bullied him in the past. This is why I had homeschooled him previously. It would be very upsetting if the bullying started again, as it would affect Nigel’s academics negatively along with his well-being.  

As I said, I know you did not mean any harm by laughing. I just wanted to make sure you realize that he cannot help it if he says something awkward. He has always tried so hard to communicate, and when he says something that doesn’t sound right, he shouldn’t be laughed at. Thank you for the work that you do as a teacher, and for your patience with my son. I know that a student with autism can be more difficult to teach, and I do appreciate all of your efforts.  

Sincerely,  

Tanya Savko

20 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Son’s Teacher

  1. Jan

    I admire your ability to get that message across so clearly and constructively (without the rant that I know you felt and I certainly would have expressed!)

    And, I’m dying to know what, if anything, he said in response.

    And did Nigel notice his laughing?

  2. Johanna

    I see my son’s future, when I read your postings about Nigel and this one hurts. I know we are likely to encounter ridicule, but I wish that people had more understanding, especially those in education. Big hug to you and NIgel. (I know, he doesn’t like it, just a cyber hug though :) )

  3. Kim

    Very well written. I do hope this teacher takes in all that you have conveyed and responds with an apology and a promise to do better by Nigel.

    You are a fantastic mother for taking the time to address his teacher. My he/she be more aware in the future.

    Big Hugs to you.

  4. Meg

    Oh this type of situation makes my blood boil; luckily, you express yourself so much better than I would. I hope you did actually send this to her and that she receives it with grace.

  5. Jenn E

    I really don’t get why educators and sometimes family and friends think it’s ok to laugh at our kids autistic traits and difficulties.

    You are way classier then I am. I’d have asked her what she was laughing at.

  6. fighting for my children

    Wow! You got your point across without sounding angry. Good job, I hope this teacher realizes how inappropiate her actions were and corrects her response.

  7. Lex Savko

    What’s wonderful about this is that the message comes through loud and clear without making it an issue of blame. Teaching without lecturing. That’s what you did. Nice job!

  8. Tanya Savko Post author

    Everyone, thank you for your encouragement. I am grateful for your support.

    Jan, you’re right – I definitely felt more like ranting and had to cut a lot out of what I’d originally written! So far I’ve had some difficulty getting the email to get through to the teacher – it keeps bouncing back to me, even though I have the address right. I think I’ll just print it out and mail it the old fashioned way. But when I said, “He does the best he can,” I think she realized that she had been out of line with her laughter, because she stopped and said, “Yes, he does.” I’m not sure how Nigel felt about the laughter. He was standing right next to her, so he certainly noticed it. It was at the beginning of a really busy day with the tree recycling (not sure if you read my post from Monday about that), and I never had time to talk to him about it. I’m going to have to try to approach him about it, because I want to ask him if she’s done that to him in class as well. I certainly hope not.

    Johanna, my hope is that more teachers all over will read this post and that it will help a little for the futures of other ASD kids! Best wishes to you and your son.

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