from Malva: “Social/emotional learning” is the latest buzzword in education. Teachers are recognizing that a single-minded focus on academic skills is not enough. Students must learn and practice the social/emotional skills that lead to healthy relationships and which also enhance learning; these skills equip them to handle the demands of adult life and to more effectively utilize what they’ve learned academically.
Ongoing guidance in the area of social/emotional learning is important, beginning in elementary school and continuing on in the secondary levels. Through discussions and guidance, teachers provide examples and also encourage active student participation in coming up with healthy options for behaviors; these are practiced and reinforced within the classroom. Interpersonal skills and bullying head the list of important topics, and a presentation such as Benjamin’s can become the focal point for thought-provoking discussions.
Kids tend to listen particularly well when role-models/respected peers impart information, and Benjamin’s ongoing autism presentations in the schools are a powerful catalyst for social/emotional learning. During 2014, Benjamin has reached about 1,200 students in Boulder Valley, as well as many teachers—his impact is palpable and to be celebrated!
from Benjamin: Just before Halloween, I was at Boulder High (my mom’s alma mater) to give my presentation, and approximately 350 students and teachers filled the art-deco style auditorium. I was having a rough morning, being overcome by an extreme tic attack, but once I was up on stage, knowing that so many kids wanted to hear me, I was able to overcome my personal issues and fly on into “performance mode.” I felt like everyone cared. Afterwards, there was a short documentary about inclusion and peer mentoring made by Faye, a student at Boulder High. It’s called, And Then I Got To Know You. Awesome job, Faye! I enjoyed being interviewed by you for the film…your message is so important.
The next week, the entire Manhattan Middle School (that’s where I went from 6th – 8th grade) came to my autism presentations, and I got a standing ovation! I did two assemblies, for half the school each time since they couldn’t all fit in the auditorium—in this way, I reached over 550 listeners in one day! I love making a difference by being different.