Less Silence About Silence

Last week, this photograph of a college football player sitting at a school cafeteria table with a middle-school student with autism went viral:

I understood that picture a little too well; my son sits alone in the cafeteria every day, too. While looking for some help for him last spring, I learned about “lunch-bunch” programs, where teachers or therapists provide organization, facilitate conversations, or simply offer a safe place for kids who can’t find a clique in the cafeteria. These programs have begun to crop up at public schools around the country and offer a lot of promise for kids who sit alone.

One reader, Mike Hugman, emailed me to thank me for the article I wrote on the subject. As a child, he also had a difficult time fitting in with his classmates. He pointed out that you don’t have to have autism to have these problems and agreed that schools could do more to help kids like himself.

Mike said that he “suffered in silence.” Perhaps it is time for less silence about silence. Tell us: Did you have a tough time in the lunchroom at school? Could (and should) schools step in to help kids like Bo, Mike, and my son?

Mike writes:

I was one of those kids who sat alone almost every day, and while I was not autistic, I was extremely shy and didn't know how to break out of my shell. The experience was extremely distressing, since I wanted nothing more than to make friends and fit in but I was completely clueless on how to do that, or who/how to ask for help.