I was always “tiny” standing next to Jonah… but STANDING UP for Jonah was something I was going to do, no matter what.
Jonah is my friend and he has the best smile anyone could imagine! I met him in third grade (we are now in 8th grade) and he changed my life !
While the other kids laughed at him because he randomly slapped and clapped his hands or walked around the yard while everyone else was sitting during assemblies, I watched him and tried to understand why he was acting differently. He seemed unaware or unaffected by the kids imitating him. I was fully aware, though, and was not going to let my classmates get away with bullying or teasing Jonah.
Soon, Ms. May, Jonah’s aide, explainned to me that Jonah has autism. I didn’t really understand what Autism is; but, I did understand that Jonah is a kid – just like me or you. He is kind, he is smart, he loves to play on the computer, he is tall, he doesn’t always want to stay seated, and he goes to camp during the summers. Jonah is a kid – like me or you – who is challenged by something… we all have our challenges: his has AUTISM.
One day, on the yard, everybody formed a circle around Jonah and that is when my life changed. I marched my little feet over to the circle and began to tell the kids to stop teasing Jonah. In my “third grade” way, I told them that they were hurting his feelings and that just because he was “different” than them, it was nott ok to be mean to him. I knew my words were heard becasue everyone walked away. As I went to put my hand on Jonah’s shoulder to tell him I was sorry that the other kids were mean to him, he bit my shoulder. Once again the kids circled around Jonah – this time screaming that Jonah bit me. I was crying. Everyone thought I was crying because Jonah hurt me and the yard duty rushed me to the nurse, while Jonah was rushed to the principal’s office. I was not crying because I was hurt. I was crying because I felt badly for Jonah – that he was going to get in trouble for something he did not mean to do.
I will never forget the principal calling my mom that very moment – she told her what had happened and assured her that appropriate “consequences” would be given to Jonah. I asked to speak to my mom. I needed to tell my mom that it was NOT Jonah’s fault and that he should not have “consequences” for what he had done. I told her that Jonah must have been so fed up with all of the kids being mean to him – he wasn’t able to use his words to tell those kids to stop because he has autism. I explainned to my mom that Jonah didn’t want to hurt me and that it was an accident. I made my mom promise to tell the principal that is was NOT Jonah’s fault and that the other kids should be the ones getting the “consequences.”
That day, Jonah changed my life for ever ! I couldn’t stop thinking about the “consequences” Jonah should have gotten – all I could think of was compassion, understanding, patience and tolerance. Those were the consequnces I was going to give Jonah and I was determined for the principal and all of the other kids to do the same.
Five years later, I can still call Jonah my friend! He still goes to the same school and he too has lots of friends who have also leanred compassion, understanding, patience and tolerance !
April is Autism Awareness Month.
In Jonah’s honor, I am selling a collection of my one-of-a-kind “Stand Up for Jonah” dresses. I will donate all proceeds in his honor to Autism Speaks !
Every few days, I will post a photo of the dress from the “Stand Up for Jonah” collection that is available to purchase.
By emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will know that you want to make the purchase. I will then forward you the address to send a check and at the same time, your one-of-a-kind “Stand Up for Jonah” dress or top will be shipped to you. By purchasing one of these dresses, you can feel good knowing that your money will be going to Autism Speaks and you will have done your part in helping kids like Jonah !
In keeping with my “Follow Your Dreams” campaign, the first item for sale is my limited edition “Follow Your Dreams” top … $38 plus shipping and handling…