For an autistic child, the world is a frightening place. Impaired brain development causes perpetual information overload. Panic and frustration ensue, along with other stress-induced responses. Children have difficulty communicating and interacting socially.
Autism poses significant challenges for both teachers and students. However, Ruth Clarkson of northwest England is an exceptional educator. Autistic student Ben Twist had failed his SAT exams at Lansbury Bridge School in Merseyside. Yet the letter he receives from his teacher is congratulatory! Mrs. Clarkson compliments Ben on his “fabulous progress.” Then she extols his talent in art, music, design, building, and sports. She commends his kindness. She lauds his teamwork and friendships. “The tests measure only a small part of you,” she says reassuringly.
— Gail Twist (@gailtwist) September 2, 2015
Mrs. Clarkson concludes the letter by stating that Ben’s many attributes make him a special person. To the school faculty, Ben’s outstanding personality is just as important as academics. Mrs. Clarkson is delighted with Ben’s attitude and regards him as a bright young man. Her final words are, “Well done, Ben. We are very proud of you.”
Are you experiencing tears? The depth of compassion expressed in the letter is extraordinary. Equally remarkable is the fact that Ben’s failure is never mentioned. Mrs. Clarkson discreetly states that the test results have been conveyed to his parents.
What was Ben’s reaction? His smile and “thumbs-up” pose speaks volumes in the Twitter photo posted by his mom. Ben was amazed by his teacher’s praises. His mother was overcome with gratitude. Mrs. Twist states it’s the most beautiful letter she’s ever read. She has shared it with the hope that more children will receive similar positive feedback.
Currently age 11, Ben was diagnosed with autism as a 5-year-old. Lansbury Bridge School and Sports College has a model program for students with learning disabilities. Previously, Ben attended a mainstream school where he was falling behind in his studies. The Lansbury staff has decoded how Ben learns, using a personalized, visual style of teaching.
Common to autistic children, Ben has communication difficulties and needs repetition to help his brain process information. Despite these challenges, he remains good-natured, loving, and thoughtful. Mrs. Twist is supremely pleased that Ben tried his best. Just taking the tests was a huge success. Prior to Lansbury, attending school was very stressful for him.
In fact, Jane Grecic, head teacher at Lansbury, states that few autistic students at the school are able to take SATs. This year, Ben was the only candidate, diligently working to meet the challenge. He was able to sit for the exams without panicking, a significant milestone.
Hats off to Mrs. Clarkson and the faculty at Lansbury Bridge! Thank you, Mrs. Twist, for sharing this heartwarming letter. Ben, you merit a round of applause, too. You rule!