An Autism Breakthrough

“Colby, I need you to start finding facts on the dangers of heating plastics,” Maya, the 4th grade manager of the Science Spot Laboratory, asked one of her top peer researchers. He nodded in agreement and started typing.


“Colby,” Becky started again, “Can you do that for me? The news has been all over this topic.” 


“Yep,” he replied.


Becky smiled.  This was progress.  


Colby was diagnosed autistic at an early age. Before transferring to his Philadelphia MicroSociety school, he had not spoken a word in school – to anyone – for two years. It was easier to keep his distance than participate. But school was different now.  When he first arrived, he didn’t care enough to choose a job. The teachers who worked with him decided to have him apply for the job of researcher with the Science Spot because he had an interest in bugs (could name ’em all), rocks (had a vast collection), and anything slimy (frogs were a favorite friend)! The manager’s expectations were high.  Maya let Colby know at his interview that if he wanted to get paid, he would have to share his research. Out loud. So others could learn from it. With time and a few docked paychecks, he did.


Now, the clever sleuth, evidence in hand, approached Maya.  


“”BPA’s the culprit” he declared. Maya nodded, encouraging him to go on. ” When certain plastics are heated, the chemical can get into our food.  It could make babies and kids real sick.  Some states have put limits on BPA.  But not ours yet… ” 


Maya shook her head. This was serious stuff. “I’ll have Jonah start preparing a presentation right now to get the word out. We need to get a spot at the town hall meeting so something can be done about this. Dangers from our microwave dinners need to stop!” she declared. 


“Wait,” Colby interrupted. “I can do it!”


Maya beamed agreement. She went over to the Science Spot storage cubby and pulled out a striped tie. “Inspiration…for your presentation”, she said.


Two weeks later, feeling cool wearing his tie, Colby looked straight at the grown-ups gathered on folding chairs for the monthly meeting. Maya, and the other members of the Science Spot team held their breaths.  “BPA is a chemical in our plastics….” There was not a sound in the room.  “and….we have to understand. This is important….” He cautiously looked over… “When it’s heated, it can hurt our growing bodies.”  After wrapping up his question/answer segment, with the promise to work with the councilmen to draft a letter to the governor, Colby turned to his manager, feeling proud, “Do I keep the tie?” he asked.   

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