A few weeks ago Henry Frost sent me this video about his desire to attend the public school close to his home. He wrote: "I would like to be included and learn with friends my age and where I live." He also wrote, "I am a self advocate. I want the same rights as everyone." Please watch Henry's video.
Henry would like to attend the public school across the street from his home, but the school has denied him entry. The school told Henry they don't serve "students like Henry." Henry is autistic, non-speaking and communicates through a voice-activated iPad. The school says he would be better served at a special school much farther away. But Henry would like to go to the same school his friends attend, a school that is within walking distance of his house. Henry's cause has gone viral. To date, several thousand people have added their names to the Change.org petition in Henry's name. Several thousand people have "liked" Henry's Facebook page.
In an effort to help get the word out I asked Henry if I could interview him. He agreed. What follows is our interview.
AZ: Hi Henry. Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview.
Henry: You are welcome.
AZ: How old are you?
Henry: I am 13.
AZ: When did you learn to type?
Henry: I have typed for a long time. I got my first keyboard when I was in preschool. I typed spelling and vocabulary words always. Writing with a pencil is very hard for me. I got an iPad prolquo2go about four years ago. I started typing to communicate a year and a half ago.
AZ: If you could tell the school anything and knew that they would listen, what would you tell them?
Henry: I want to learn. I can learn. I am a person. I have the same rights.
AZ: What are the top 10 things you wish people understood about you?
Henry: #1 Please talk to me like everyone else.
#2 Please don't talk about me in front of me. I can hear you. I can read your lips. I can read your body language. It feels terrible. Sad. But it feels great when you treat me like I am smart.
#3 Please talk directly to me, not to my support person, or my mom, Russ or my sisters.
#4 Please focus on my strengths. I have many. We all do.
#5 Please presume my competence.
#6 Remember, I am a person, just like you.
#7 Don't make me prove it.
#8 Please never refer to my iPad as a toy. It is not; it is my voice. Imagine if you could not speak with your mouth, how important your iPad voice would be.
#9 Listen to all communication. Not just typed.
#10 You will be fine. Better even.
AZ: What's your favorite subject?
Henry: I like all subjects. I like reading about architecture history and Chevrolets though.
AZ: What's your favorite book?
Henry: Well Architecture Explained and Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone because my friends write it so well and I saw myself in parts of the truth.
AZ: When you have free time, what do you like to do?
Henry: I like to go on Youtube and watch car and truck races. Also like to watch videos about the Chevy Volt. I like watching movies and races on TV. I like being with my friends. I like swimming. I like going to New York and Daytona.
AZ: Do you have any hobbies?
Henry: Yes. Nascar and Chevrolets.
AZ: If you could be granted a wish, any wish what would it be?
Henry: That my friend Sebastien will be okay and my dad was alive.
AZ: Thank you so much Henry for speaking with me. I hope you'll be able to attend your school.
Add your name to the 2,334 signatures gathered on the petition at Change.org.
To stand with Henry go to Henry's Facebook page click here.
Ariane Zurcher can be found on her blog: Emma's Hope Book.
For Emma's Hope Book Facebook page click here.
For more by Ariane Zurcher, click here.
For more on autism, click here.