Story Time: Cameron Goes to School

by Sheletta Brundidge
 
Photograph of a young girl standing in front of her mother, who crouches down to embrace her daughter. The girl holds a book called “Cameron Goes to School.”
Sheletta Brundidge and her daughter, Cameron.

Sheletta Brundidge is the author of “Cameron Goes to School,” which is the true story of her daughter, Cameron, starting school as a child with autism. The book, told from Cameron’s point of view, depicts her quiet determination as she prepares over the months, weeks, and days leading up to her first day. Cameron’s story is one of courage and perseverance. It also provides helpful insight on how to better understand and support a friend, neighbor, or classmate who is on the autism spectrum.

Stay tuned after the reading as Sheletta shares “A Few Good Things to Know about Autism,” which is available below as a downloadable PDF. You can also download a coloring sheet from the book of Cameron in her desk at school. As you will see, Sheletta’s story is also one of courage and perseverance.

Visit our blog for an interview with Sheletta in which she describes the iteration of the story, the role of community, and the importance of representation. You can check out more of Sheletta’s work as a radio and media personality, writer, and autism advocate at: SHElettaMakesMeLaugh.com.

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Hi friends! My name is Sheletta Brundidge and I live in Minnesota.

As schools are reopening, you may be excited to see your friends again and learn with new teachers in the classroom.

You may also be just a little bit nervous about going back... and maybe your parents are, too.

Guess what?

Our friends at the National Postal Museum miss all you guys! They miss their visitors and they're looking forward to welcoming everyone back once they reopen. Especially when you guys take your school field trips!

Starting school can make you feel a range of emotions.

Maybe you're not sure if you'll know anyone in your classroom or if you'll fit in with the other kids.

Maybe you're not used to being away from your parents all day... I know that can be pretty scary.

Maybe you're also worried you won't understand everything the teacher is saying.

But you know what? You may also feel grown up and eager to begin a new adventure! You may feel confident that you'll have lots of fun making new friends and enjoy learning new things.

Let me tell you something. When my daughter Cameron was starting kindergarten, she was so excited! Her family was, too, but we were also a little bit anxious. You see, Cameron is six years old and has something called autism, which makes it challenging at times to communicate with adults and kids.

Now listen: Cameron is very smart and she was more than ready to apply her skills at school.

I wrote this book "Cameron Goes to School" about my daughter's autism journey as she got ready to start off in kindergarten. I'm in the story and so are members of our family and people in our community.

Now listen: after we read the story, you and I are going to talk a little bit about autism and how you can better understand and connect with your friends who are on the spectrum.

(Reading) "Cameron Goes to School" by Sheletta Brundidge and Lily Coyle.

Illustrations by Darcy Bell-Meyers.

Everybody says I'm going to school someday and I don't know what to think about that. It's a big change, especially when you have autism like I do. So I just don't say a thing.

Now they say I'm going to school in one year.

Mom is already sad.

"Cameron when you're there making new friends, who will play Candyland with me over and over and over again?

And again? And again?

I don't say a thing. I just study my ABCs.

Now they say I'm going to school next fall.

Dad is pretty broken up about it. "Cameron, when you're taking that big yellow bus back and forth, who will I drive to all the play dates and lessons and appointments?"

I don't say a thing. I just work on my numbers.

Now they say I'm going to school at the end of summer.

Grandma Cynthia is pretty nervous. "Cameron... when you're busy learning how to spell and add and write, who's going to decide what tv shows I watch?"

I don't say a thing. I just practice cutting and pasting.

Now they say I'm going to school in a month.

Big brother Andrew is all put out. "Cameron... when you're off taking field trips, who's going to sneak into my room and mess with all my stuff?"

I don't say a thing. I just memorize all the months of the year.

Now they say I'm going to school in three weeks.

Little brother Daniel is very concerned. "Cameron, when you're listening to teacher who's going to be sitting on mom's lap right when I want to be sitting on mom's lap?"

I don't say a thing. I just put my new school supplies in my backpack.

Now they say I'm going to school in 10 days.

Mr. Phil our neighbor is worried. "Cameron, when you're out playing games on that big school playground, who's going to leave toys all over my yard and pick my flowers?"

I don't say a thing. I just work on tying my new shoes.

Now they say I'm going to school next Tuesday.

Chelsea my therapist is brokenhearted. "Cameron, when you're singing songs with your classmates, who will sort through all these flashcards with me?"

I don't say a thing. I just pick out my first day outfit.

Now they say I'm going to school today and everybody's pretty worried about that. It's a big change for them, but I think they'll be okay.

So, I just say, "Goodbye!"

That's the end of Cameron's story, but it's not the end of learning about autism. Because at the very back of Cameron's book, there's a few good things that you should know about autism.

First is, autism isn't something that can be caught from another person like a cold or the flu.

And autism isn't something new, guys. It's been around for a very long time.

People on the autism spectrum are all different and totally unique.

Some people with autism have ticklish senses, so even if you tap them on the shoulder or touch them on the back to get their attention, they may laugh and giggle but it's okay!

Some people with autism use something called "stemming" to help calm them down.

So, you may see your friends with autism rocking back and forth or shaking their hands... they just got to get the sillies out!

And it's nothing to be frightened about.

Some people with autism like routines. A lot.

So, make sure if you have a substitute to tell them "stick to the schedule" because we've got friends with autism who like to do things the same way at the same time every single day.

Some people with autism can be very, very interested in a certain thing. So, your friends with autism may play with the same toy over and over again but it's okay! They just are studying it to make sure they know how to play with it right the next time.

All people with autism have feelings, so guess what? Even if your friends with autism can't say anything, it doesn't mean that they don't feel things.

So, they may be just as excited and happy or sad and grumpy as you are feeling that day, but they can't express it. It's okay!

And the last one: all people with autism can be friends with people who don't have autism. So, if you've got a kid with autism in your class or at your church or in your neighborhood, you can still be friends with them and they'll want to be friends with you!

Thank you so much for having Story Time with me and listening about my daughter Cameron's journey as she gets ready to go to school. I hope you learned so much today about Cameron and autism and take all this information back to your teachers and other friends and family so you can be an autism advocate and a great helper for your friends who have special needs.

Bye, friends!