A Introductory letter to other Parents

This was an open letter we sent to my son's teacher, staff and classmates when he was in the first grade, introducing Cass and our family.  We included a class picture.  This letter originally was printed in the Advocate years ago and was modified to reflect my son with Asperger Syndrome.

Dear Parents:

Our names our Linda and Larry Newland and our son Cass is your child's classmate this year in Mrs. ****** 1st/2nd grade class. We are writing to you today both to introduce ourselves and to share what we hope will be helpful information -- about Cass.

Cass has a mild form of autism know as Asperger Syndrome. AS is a neurological disorder that affects Cass's communication and play skills and often prompts people to wonder, "What is wrong with him?" Personally, I like to think there is nothing "wrong" with Cass, just that his needs are different than others. ...And while there are many children at Buckingham Elementary with special needs, Cass's needs are some what unique in that they are not immediately apparent, nor is he able to communicate them. Because of Cass's inability to speak to this issue himself, I would like to explain to you so that you will feel comfortable addressing this issue should your child inquire about Cass.

Cass's physical appearance is just like any first grader (handsome of course!!), but because he looks so "normal" physically, one is rather taken aback by his social and educational difficulties. This is particularly difficult for the other children, who may mistake Cass's difficulties for rudeness. To the contrary, Cass loves having other children around him and longs to have some real friends. This is difficult for Cass, however, because he does not have the language skills to either initiate or maintain friendships.

Cass has just recently turned seven, and along with being chronologically older than some of the first graders, some of his mannerisms, behaviors, motor play, and speech and language skills are those of a much younger child. He also receives special education services, along with speech and language therapy at school and may or may not need to leave the classroom for these sessions.

Asperger Syndrome also affects Cass's ability to focus in school. He is hypersensitive and easily distracted by various stimuli, including certain sounds, the feel of certain clothes, people's touch or art material (paint, tape, etc.). He sometimes has difficulty in a room with too many people. A good way to explain his difficulties to your child (should an explanation be necessary and/or appropriate) may be to ask your child to envision a race track; they keep their eyes on the finish line, stopping only occasionally for fuel. Cass's car, on the other hand, needs frequent "pit stops" to regroup and refuel. The car is often tempted to go down the wrong track and has difficulty finding its way back. The car desperately wants to cruise with the rest, but is distracted by the screaming fans, the advertising billboards, the exhaust from the other cars passing by. Cass's "car" does much better during the practice runs, when there are no fans in the bleachers and no other cars -- he is better able keep his eyes on the finish line. That is why Cass may sometimes leave the classroom -- so he can "practice" without all the distractions.

I hope this information helps you and your child better understand Cass. As I said before, Cass would love to have some real friends and we would welcome any of his classmates over to play. We have Super Nintendo, a video library, a pretty cool fenced in back yard on 6 acres along with many other tempting treats! Cass has an older sister named Nicole who is 10 and a younger sister named Brittany who is 6, in case your child has siblings also in need of a playmate. Please call us at ***-***-**** if you would like to come and visit us sometime!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and thank you in advance, for helping your child understand that while Cass may be a little different, he is a nice wonderful and loving boy who needs friends like everyone else. When explaining Cass's disability to others, I always compare it to trying to learn advance physics in Chinese. But, I believe in miracle's, ...don't you? I hope you and your family have a wonderful school year.

Sincerely yours,

Linda and Larry Newland

2004 All rights reserved.

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"We each have our own way of living in the world, together we are like a symphony.
Some are the melody, some are the rhythm, some are the harmony
It all blends together, we are like a symphony, and each part is crucial.
We all contribute to the song of life."
...Sondra Williams

We might not always agree; but TOGETHER we will make a difference.


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