How I Feel After Reading "What I Saw"

February 4, 2014
Colored pencils next to a stack of books.

Have you ever read something that stops you dead in your tracks and affects you so profoundly that you just can’t get it out of your head? This is the state I continue to find myself in several days after reading a post on Kitt McKenzie Martin’s Autistic Chick blog called “What I Saw.”

"They didn't see him begging to have some space," Kitt writes. "They saw an escape attempt. A student trying to outsmart the teachers, to get his way. They saw a runner. I saw a classmate who couldn't respond to prompts because they were coming too fast, and who couldn't comply because everything was being thrown at him at once. They didn't see what I saw."

Kitt describes in vivid detail her point of view as she witnessed an interaction between a peer and school staff members, and what she did in response and why. Her powerful words put you right there in the middle of that scene with her. Rather than ignoring or joining in with labeling the peer’s behavior or judging him, Kitt sees the sensory overload the peer is experiencing and empathizes with him. She understood what his behavior was communicating and provided a simple but very meaningful form of support that alleviated her peer’s anxiety.

I chose to share this link here on our blog because so much of what Kitt did reflects Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) premises, concepts, and strategies. We can all learn a lot from her when it comes to being person-centered, offering choices, understanding the function (the “why”) behind someone’s behavior, believing that behavior is a valid and clear form of communication, seeing how the environment can trigger a person’s behavior, and noticing that sometimes it’s a staff member’s response that maintains a challenging behavior.

When we look at situations through a PBIS lens and respond accordingly, we can often enhance someone’s quality of life.

I’d love to hear about your reflections and responses to Kitt’s post. Often the media focuses on deficits or portrays autism in a negative light. But Kitt is the latest in a long line of self-advocates living with autism who teach me treasured lessons and valued truths.

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