Geography Lessons

He sat next to me, staring blankly at the paper in front of him.

“Alright, Ty. What’s the capital of New York?” I asked, “Remember, who’s mascot is the bulldogs that is close to us? New…”

“Albany?” he replied in his gruff voice. For fifth grade, his voice was already a low baritone.

“Wooo! Yes! Go Ty!” I held up my hand for a high five and he slapped it. I looked behind me to see his mother, my cousin Michelle, smile at me with bright eyes.

She had asked me here for a few reasons. Tyler had a social studies quiz over the New England state capitals, and I have always had quite the nack for geography. I am also a wiz for coming up with odd ways for remembering things, which is what Tyler’s issue was- he couldn’t remember what he learned. They were trying at school, but failing miserably, because Tyler is mildly autistic and they didn’t know quite how to teach him. When Michelle made up rhymes for him, he better understood it, but she was stumped on state capitals. So, she called me and asked me to drive up and help him, and I agreed.

“Alright, Slugger. Give me the capital of Delaware.”


“Noah sent it out after the flood.”

“DOVE!…er…” he hesitated.

“Right! Well, Dover. But it’s spelled the same. High five!”

He laughed at how excited I was getting, and I laughed when he laughed. Ty has an infectious laugh- it comes from his gut, and busts out over the entire room. You can’t help but join him.

“Let…let…me ask you one,” he giggled, “New Ham..ham…”


“Yeah, that one!”


“I wont remember that.”

“Ok…well. We can fix that.” At that point, I was glad I was a creative writer, because the stretches I was making were really helping him. “You drink Concord grape juice with your ham sandwich for lunch. Concord, New Hampshire.”

“Oh yeah!”

We sat at that table for two and a half hours, as I quizzed him over and over again. Once he got them all right five times, I had promised I would go jump on his new trampoline with him. Soon, I found myself flying up into the air and giggling right along with him once again.
The next day, as I sat doing homework, my mom walked in with the phone, “You have a phone call. It’s Tyler,” she smiled.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Jessi? It’s Tyler.”

“Oh, hey bud. How did your quiz go?”

“I got a 95!” he cheered, “My first A ever!”

I bit my lip as I fought back tears, “Congrats buddy! Which one did you miss?”

“New Hampshire.”

“Awww. Bud, you knew that one, too! But it’s ok. I’m still proud of you.”

“Mommy wants to talk to you, Jessi. Ok?”

I heard him hand the phone to Michelle, and she said hello with a giggle. “THANK YOU SO MUCH!” she almost cried, “He’s so proud of himself! I’m so proud of him! He came right home and put it on the fridge.”

“My pleasure,” I replied, “I’m proud of him, too!”

“I’m just still trying to figure out how he got Grapes for the captial of New Hampshire, though.”

Tyler has a mild form of Autism, but there are children out there with severe forms.


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0 thoughts on “Geography Lessons

  • May 20, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    This is a great story; I deal with a few kids with mild autism on a regular basis, they are all amazing, I love them to pieces! I acutally find it quite interesting to look at how they learn differently than others, and to learn what works for them. Great job ! =]


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