Note: Fictitious names were used in the following stories in order maintain anonymity.
A Teacher’s Perspective
As I stood there in the gym waiting to videotape the event, tears welled up in my eyes with happiness and pride as Albert (suited up in uniform) ran onto the basketball court with the rest of the team when his name was announced at the last home boy’s basketball game of the season. The team gave him “high-fives” and welcomed him like he had played with them the entire season. This game was very special for many reasons. Prior to this last game, I had talked with one of Albert’s LINKS (who is on the 8th grade boys’ basketball team) that works with Albert during his Physical Education class, his paraprofessional, and my principal to arrange for Albert to shoot free throws during the last home game of the boy’s basketball season. We also talked to the referee prior to the game and asked him to call a foul on the other team so that Albert would have the opportunity to come into the game and shoot a free throw. The time came, I watched Albert walk up to the free throw line and take his first, second, third, and fourth shots, and on the fifth shot you heard the swish of the net as the ball passed through – he made it! The crowd cheered and stood to their feet! I watched with so much emotion and beamed with pride as the boy’s basketball team, many of which are my students, surrounded him and presented him with the game ball signed by each player. I have had many amazing moments in my teaching career but this one was special. I will remember it as the evening that my student Albert, who has autism, felt like part of a team doing what he loves to do – shoot free throws.
A Student’s Perspective
I’m not nervous at all, I’m very excited! I can feel a big smile on my face. I see a lot of people here – my Mom and Dad, and there is Ms. Jones (my PE teacher)! There are so many sounds around me right now. I hear basketballs dribbling, people talking, shoes squeaking on the court, and whistles blowing. It’s very warm in here. They called my name! What do I do? There’s Zack I see him at school, he plays basketball with me. He wants me to run out on the court with the team, wow! Everyone is giving me a “high-five”. I see Mary, she helps me in class and there is the lady that walks in the hallways at school all the time. So many people are here that I recognize. The lights are bright. The man in the funny uniform just blew his whistle, it was loud. They want me to come into the game and shoot a free throw. I have been practicing every day in class with Zack and Mary, I love shooting free throws! 1, 2, 3…let me have the ball again…4, and 5. I made it! So many people are clapping – it’s loud, the team is all around me – I’m so excited! I feel my body shaking. Wow, they are giving me a basketball and it has writing all over it. I’m going to hold it tight and never let it go. There is Ms. Jones again, she’s smiling at me. It’s warm in here.
Hearing, writing, and rewriting the stories above was a very interesting experience. It allowed me to sit, listen, and engage in the experience as my friend, a middle school Physical Education teacher, told me an amazing story about one of her autistic students and the idea she had to make him feel special for one night doing what he loved to do in class every day. There were numerous other people involved in organizing this special night that allowed the idea to come to fruition – students, paraprofessionals, the school principal, the referee, and the parents were all instrumental in making this happen.
The experience of hearing my friend tell this story was very emotional, in a good way. I could hear the excitement and pride in her voice and see the joy in her eyes as she told the story. The further she got into the story, the more details she shared not only about the event but about her experience working with the autistic kids in her class and how special they are. I found it a little difficult to express the context of the story (from the teacher’s perspective) in one paragraph because I felt there was so much that needed to be shared and expressed in order for the reader to really engage in the experience. I found that the hardest part of reframing the story and writing it from the student’s perspective, was trying to see and feel the experience as a person with autism. I called upon my friend’s expertise in the area to help me better understand and for a brief moment, walk in someone else’s shoes.
PDPics. (2014, July). [Basketball, Court, Ball, Game] [Image]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/basketball-court-ball-game-sport-390008/