One of the end-of-the-year 5th grade projects is for each student to write an I Am poem, and draw a self portrait (well, half of one). They are diligently hung upon the classroom wall in time for Open House, for proud parents to peruse. Now, maybe it was the fact Open House was two days before our fundraiser and I was overwhelmingly stressed. Maybe it was the fact I’d been up since 5am, and at school since 7:30am to run the BOGO book fair. Maybe it was the fact we were just two shorts weeks away from the end of the school year, an end which would bring promotion ceremonies for two, and big changes for all of us. But when I walked into Little Man’s classroom, and read his I Am poem, I fell apart. We’re talking total wheels off, hot weepy mess, in the middle of the classroom. I escaped as quickly as I could, and then didn’t have time to really process as I was back in the book fair for another hour and a half. I stood there, numb, surrounded by people, unable to let it all go, work it through, reach a good place with it. I anxiously waited the poem’s homecoming, needing time with it, to read it again under calmer, more rested circumstances. It finally came home this past Thursday. It still struck me as hard as the first time I read the dang thing.
This child…who says autistic kids cannot be self-aware? Who says they don’t make connections? His writing this year shows a side of him that’s been tucked away inside, hidden behind his different needs. He knows he’s different. He’s told me as much before. He often doesn’t want to be different, and he’s just learning to express that, along with other thoughts and emotions. But there’s all that stuff going on inside his head we rarely get to see, much less understand. This I Am poem, in his way, let us see into his private world. He’s given me permission to share it with you. (property of EES, June 2015)