from Malva: Three weeks in Germany, and a keynote presentation about living with autism at the Berlin British School! We are so grateful for all the effort and enthusiasm that went into creating the “Overcoming Challenges and Helping Others” event.
BBS holds an annual public-speaking competition for their students, and with Benjamin’s autism presentation as a focal point, the topic for this year’s competition became “Overcoming Challenges.” Over twenty students participated, and they prepared by viewing Benjamin’s TEDx-talk. Using this as a model, each competitor created a 3-4 minute speech, rehearsing in front of teacher and classmates, taking on feedback, editing and discussing. The many weeks of immersion will surely have a positive ripple-effect well into the future.
We were so impressed by the bravery of these students, ranging in age from grade 8-11, delivering their thoughts on topics such as self-discipline, standing up to bullying, living with bipolar or with depression, dealing with fear/insecurity, facing death of friends/family, cultural differences/immigration/foreign language challenges, pressured over-achievement… The kids’ willingness to be open and vulnerable by sharing some very personal experiences was commendable. Who knows, some of these students may go on to be leaders and speakers themselves, making a difference in the same way that Benjamin does.
Benjamin likewise began by addressing his classmates in middle-school. He spoke openly about his autism so that peers might become more educated and compassionate about “differences,” and also to keep himself from being such a hidden target of bullying. He also demonstrated to students that great talent can go hand-in-hand with great challenges…
We hope to spark further events like this, getting teachers and students on board with deep discussions about overcoming challenges and helping others. Greatest thanks to Emily Thomas, special support teacher at BBS, for taking the ball and running with it!