On Special Education—Communication

In my first post on this subject, I mentioned that I feel like my experience in special ed has been a waste of my abilities intellectually. The main reason for that is because of my inability to communicate completely independently. Because I can’t speak fluently or just sit in front of a computer and type out my thoughts without help, no one believed that I was in there and understanding everything that was going on around me.

I learned how to communicate through a program run by a lady named Soma at her office when I was fifteen using a pencil and a stencil board. My initial conversations were brief because it was a painfully-slow method of pointing out one letter at a time, waiting for her to write that letter down and then choosing the next letter. During my twenty-minute sessions, I could only complete a few sentences. My dad figured out how to make it work on an iPad and that opened up my world. Over the five years since, I have become much faster at it and have become more effective at expressing what is in my brain. It has taken hours and hours of practice and a lot of patience but I feel like now I can truly communicate.

But, there is a problem. For me to type, I must hold onto someone’s hand. I don’t understand it either but unless I do that, my mind is jumbled and I can’t focus my thoughts well enough to construct coherent sentences. I’m working on fixing this but haven’t figured it out yet. And, I can’t just sit with anybody and type. Again, I don’t know why. If it is someone that makes me nervous or if I feel like I’m being judged or graded, my mind goes blank. My parents have put in the time to make it really comfortable for me to type with them. My dad especially has worked with me a ton and it comes really easy when I type with him. We have even just finished writing a book of my experience with faith and have submitted it to a publisher. We’re still waiting to hear back, so my fingers are crossed that it will be available to the public soon.

Anyway, at school, no one has taken the time that it would require for me to feel comfortable typing with them. So, nobody believes I can do it like my parents tell them I can. It is super frustrating because instead of learning age-appropriate things, I have been stuck at elementary-level material since I was in elementary school. I am so tired of counting coins that I could go crazy. Maybe I am not going to be a cashier! Let’s move on! How about teaching me something I’m actually interested in like history or literature or psychology? That would require some belief on their part that I was understanding those concepts. And would require a lot of dedicated time working on communication in the way that I have learned how to communicate. If I were teaching a class full of autistic children, I would spend at least two hours a day on learning each child’s best communication method and the rest of the time teaching age-level material with the assumption that it was sinking in and they were learning. That means, though, that you can’t necessarily rely on test scores and data points as your indicators of success. It might require some faith in your students, instead.

About author

Aaron Jepson

I am a 21-year old male who was diagnosed with autism at age 3. I am only partially-verbal and have a very difficult time expressing my thoughts by mouth but I am able to type on an I-Pad. My goal in life is to help other people with disabilities, and to let the rest of the world know that most people with autism are intelligent and capable and can make a great contribution to this world. I am funny, athletic, and most of all, handsome. And I am a fast runner, a cool skier, and a sweet mountain biker.

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  1. REPLY

    Melanie Walthall says

    I. Love. This.

  2. REPLY

    Teresa Golding says

    Aaron, I am incredibly honored to be your cousin, one generation removed. That is your Dad and I are 1st cousins. My Dad and your Grandpa Jepson are Brothers. I love reading your thoughts as you are especially gifted with your writing ability. I love that your desire to have someone find you who has the means and desire to study and help others with communication disabilities. I hope one day I will be able to meet you in person. Isn’t it interesting that in order for your mind to be clear enough to type that you need to be holding someone’s hand whom you feel comfortable with. I wish I could be that person for you as so much of the time I don’t feel well, but that is something I could do even when I don’t feel great. Maybe that negative energy would block the free flow of energy to energy. Just something I was pondering. I hope you are able to pursue some of your interest now that you’re not stuck in a box at school. Hope this finds you happy, healthy and ever growing,
    Love always,
    Cousin Teresa

    • REPLY

      Aaron Jepson says

      It’s nice to hear from you. I’m sorry you don’t feel well most of the time. I think you would be a good writing buddy too. Feel better, Aaron

  3. REPLY

    Shawn Maul says

    You are the most inspiring individual I have heard or read about in a very long time! Your father is an amazing man and friend, no surprise he is also an amazing father!

  4. REPLY

    Janet says

    Aaron, I can’t help but feel you will make a great difference in the lives of others with similar challenges. I have a son who once dealt these hard things. He returned home 6 years ago. As I read your thoughts, I feel you have given him voice to speak. Thank you Aaron!

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