When I was in fourth grade there was a boy in my class who was isolated by the other students for being different. After talking to my mom about my confusion, she suspected the boy had Autism. To help me understand Autism better my mom gave me a book called Mockingbird, which was about a girl who had Autism and how she viewed the world. Once I self-educated myself on Autism, I wanted everyone to understand it the way I now did.
My mom reached out to this boy's mom and together we established a program that I named R.E.A.C.H. (Road to Embrace Autism with Care and Heart). My goal was to educate other young students about Autism in order to establish a better understanding of my peers with Autism. Unfortunately, as a ten-year-old, I was not taken very seriously and the program did not gain the needed momentum to become successful. While I encountered setbacks with this program, I was not discouraged from helping students with different abilities.
Now that I am in high school my little sister, who was in second grade, came home and was talking about a little boy in her class. She explained to me that students were afraid and confused why he would yell out in class or throw things when he got upset. She told me that his dad told her that he has Autism but she had no idea what it was. I explained to her what Autism was, and a week later she came home from school and told me that this boy and her had a crush on each other. That’s what showed me that education is so important and that starting at a young age, students should be educated about their peers with different abilities. I believe inclusion in the classroom is very important, but inclusion without education allows confusion and sometimes unnecessary excluding of others.
So I created a non-profit called Project Self. If everyone had a better understanding of children with different abilities, I believe the occurrence in bullying would diminish. Children with different abilities can, and should be, treated with the same level of respect and dignity as other children. Since, this program has just started my curriculum is only in a few elementary schools in the Lindbergh School District but my goal is for this curriculum to grow nationwide and someday world wide.