Autism Education

Letter to Professor
I have enjoyed the benefits of an inclusive education for much of my life. This is a letter I wrote to my professor upon entry into my local community college. I find it necessary to be honest with people about my needs and my apparent quirkiness. 

Dear Mr. _______,

My name is Dillon York, and I am enrolled in your class, “Native American Way of Life” that starts in the Spring 2008 semester. Let me start off by saying that I am very excited to have an opportunity to learn more about such an important, but misunderstood, culture. I look forward to hearing your perspectives and meeting you face-to-face. As much as I am excited to learn from you, I would like to tell you a little bit about myself, so that you may learn about me before the semester starts.

It will be obvious to you from the moment I walk into your class that I am different. I have autism, which means that however quirky or unusual I look on the outside, I am an intelligent and whole person on the inside. Though I think differently, and require support to be able to participate fully in class and life, I consider myself to be an active participant who has something unique to contribute.

I often require support that is unique. I require the use of a speech output device, and the support of an aide to overcome movement disorders that would otherwise leave me silent. You will see my classroom support aide with me everywhere I go on campus, including my classes. Her name is Shawn, and she has worked with me for five wonderful years. Basically, Shawn helps me to be able to have access to the opportunities people without disabilities access quite naturally. For example, Shawn supports me to speak and communicate, access books, notes, and information, socialize in group settings,  access campus services, use computers and other learning tools, stay focused, find alternative and unconventional ways for me to process information, enact my self advocacy skills, integrate into mainstream academics and society, and overcome movement disorders. Her support is crucial to my education, as you will see.

Though Shawn supports me on a daily basis, I also rely on the support and understanding of my professors. Here are a few things you can do to help me achieve my best in your class:

  • Communicate any problems or questions directly to me.
  • Allow Shawn and I to rearrange our seats to help improve my access to information and reduce distraction.
  • Allow me sufficient time to respond to questions, as typing my communication takes considerably longer than speaking.
  • Participating in group assignments is a tremendous challenge for me. My group may need extra time to accommodate my disability.
  • Allow Shawn to close the door if it gets too noisy.
  • Realize that I do not always show my attention to a topic in typical ways. Though I may rock and stare, I am always listening to you when you are teaching.

If you have any questions feel free to email me, or you can contact my academic advisor, Mr.________, at the DSPS office. Once again, I am very excited to have the opportunity to be a student in your class.

Dillon York