Some of you know Lisa Jo Rudy from her column on About.com but she is not just a writer but also an educator, advocate, and mom. In her new book on having fun in the community, Lisa Jo encourages families, educators, and community members to think about inclusion beyond school walls. Recently, I had a chance to conduct a little interview with her for this blog:
- There is no other book like this on the market. Why did you write it?
There are two major reasons. One is personal: my husband and I come from the museum world, and we’ve seen how multisensory learning situations can open the world to kids with learning differences. A child who fails in school may be a roaring success in a science museum, on a climbing wall, or in the woods. We’ve worked hard to help our son discover his own areas of strength and interest, and as a result we’ve discovered that he has perfect pitch, a great love of the natural world, and a passion for creating his own lego structures and miniatures.
The second reason is more “mission driven” – I believe that parents of kids with autism are often so overwhelmed by the diagnosis and their own drive to “fix” their child that they forget that there’s more to the world than therapies and IEP’s. Parents of children with autism need to engage with the world, and when their child with autism is comfortable in a community setting, parents and siblings have a chance to enjoy the setting as well. I’ve seen this happen at YMCA’s, at nature centers, and in many other community settings.
- Some parents may think, “Why in the world would I care about getting my child out to have fun in the community when he can’t even cope with ordinary shopping excursions?” What do you say to this?
With autism, the usual activities of childhood can be very tough indeed. School and shopping are fraught with social and sensory pitfalls; as a result, kids with autism are often overwhelmed most of the time. But there are many places and activities that are ideal for kids on the spectrum – situations in which your child can shine. Some kids with autism, for example, are wonderful musicians, naturalists, swimmers or builders – but you’ll never know what your child can do, or where he may fit, if you don’t offer him the chance to try.
- Beyond “just having fun” (a good reason indeed), what are some of the reasons you feel people have to “get out” and “get going”?
Life is for living. Our kids with autism will almost certainly become adults with autism – and if we spend all our time, energy, money, hope and love on remediation and “normalization,” all of us lose out. All of us need to engage in the world, find what we love and what we’re good at, explore avenues that interest us, and seek out people who will accept us. That includes kids and adults with and without autism – everyone!
Would you like a copy of Lisa’s book? She has kindly offered to give one away to a lucky reader of this blog. Just post a comment below about what kind of excursion, activity, event, or extra-curricular activity you would like to try next with your child or student. We will draw a winner at 5:00 PM on Friday, July 15th. Good luck!