High school senior Jordan Smith was ready to graduate from Spalding High School in Griffin, Georgia. Because he has autism and sensory issues, and crowds and loud noises freak him out, his family decided he should skip the ceremony, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution. But his teacher, Dana Jett, had other ideas: She organized a private ceremony for him. As she said, “Jordan’s effort, hard work and perseverance are worthy of recognition.”
As a parent of a child with sensory issues, I was touched by what this teacher did for her student. As a parent of a young adult, I also hope she OK’d it with him and involved him in the planning. Otherwise, this ceremony would have only had meaning to the people who put it together, pretty much defeating the seeming purpose of it. That’s not accommodating, it’s exclusionary.

Max has been the beneficiary of much goodwill over the years. But as he’s getting older, I’ve become aware that he should have a say in how he is treated in matters big and small. Last week, before prom, a nurse at his school emailed me telling to send in Max’s adaptive cup and utensils. Pretty standard. I asked Max if that’s what he wanted; he can drink out of standard cups and use standard spoons and forks, and I thought that he might just want to do that at prom. He did want to bring in a paper cup, but he wanted to use the utensils there. This wasn’t such a big deal, but that didn’t matter; he deserved to decide.

Me, I’ve struggle with well-meaning gestures, like when that woman at Dunkin Donuts gave him free donuts. I don’t want people to do things out of Max’s disabilities, because they are not to be pitied. But, heck, if he himself makes a conscientious decision to take those donuts, fine. And if he’s offered an accommodation but would rather do his own thing in his own way, even better.

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