Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

To My Daughter’s 2nd Grade Teacher

Photo by Camille Minouflet on Unsplash

First of all thank you for what you do. I could never be an elementary school teacher.

My daughter is trailing behind, struggling to read. She’s painfully shy and somewhat withdrawn. I am sure that you have noticed.

I bumped into an older gentleman at the grocery store, when I was there with my daughter earlier today. Minutes before, she had seen him and told me who he was. We ended up behind him in line, and when he noticed my daughter, I thanked him for helping her to learn to read. He then made sure to express his discontent with our family. We aren’t doing a good enough job teaching her to read. We aren’t doing her homework each night. She needs more help than she apparently is getting.

What you don’t know is that there is a chance she is high-functioning autistic, like me. I’m in my forties now and have only recently come to the understanding that I may be autistic. I was a late reader, and for whatever reason, I have always been better with numbers. Out of all four of my children she is the most like me. Painfully shy, but talkative only with the people she is comfortable with. Better at numbers and math than with letters and reading, socially awkward, but highly observant.

I have no doubt that in a few years, these concerns and judgments you’re casting on my family will be gone. Out of my four kids, I’ve only had one that didn’t cause alarm bells to go off in the beginning years of elementary school. That one is the extrovert, and equally as bright as the others, but very good with people and eager to please them. The other three however, are introverts, some more painful than the rest. After each judgmental, well-intentioned “you’re not doing a good enough job as a parent” lecture, their talents with mathematics soon began to be revealed, and within two years they would be at the top of their class and read years beyond their grade level.

My youngest child, the one in your class, is the only one that I’ve been concerned is autistic. I realize that even as teacher, you are not trained in recognizing autism in girls. It is much different than it is in boys. Science has shown that girls with autism blend in, that they observe how people act and seek to copy them. This blending in allows them to slip through the cracks and never be diagnosed, often functioning in society, but not without its own set of struggles.

I am sure in time she will be reading beyond her grade level. I am sure in time, her gift for mathematics will cause her teachers to admire her genius, since being extremely good at mathematics is a rare thing for girls. For some reason though, in my family, being good at mathematics is a female thing. It’s likely she will be interested in computers like I was and may even follow me into software engineering. I am not worried that in time she will be successful beyond your expectations.

So please be patient. She is not like the others. She will find her way, just as I have. I have no doubt.

Sincerely,

Her Mother