Sunday, April 29, 2007

Time for Teletubbies!

I have great news!

I've been in touch recently with a Senior Director at Ragdoll Productions, the producers of Teletubbies - and Bud will soon be receiving a response to his letter to "the guys."

He is going to be thrilled right down to his toes!

I've also had a wonderful e-mail conversation with the woman from Ragdoll about their new partnership with Autism Speaks and Cure Autism Now and about the role that the Teletubbies have played - and continue to play - in Bud's life. She passed on a link to Understanding Teletubbies, a terrific video for parents that walks through an episode of Teletubbies, spotlighting and explaining the ways that the program is very intentionally designed and structured to address the developmental tasks that typical two- and three-year-old children face. What was most interesting to me, though, was that many of the developmental tasks highlighted in the video are precisely the same ones that are challenging for Bud: making transitions, shifting attention, making predictions, managing change. And on and on and on.

I always new that the Teletubbies were good for Bud's heart and Bud's spirit. But I'd never considered before that they are also good for his development.

There's a blog post about it brewing in my head that has not quite gelled enough to make it into words. But it will. It will.

In the meantime, I will just say this to the Teletubbies and everyone else at Ragdoll:

Big Hug!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Going global

This is about the coolest thing ever.

A couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail from a blogging dad who has a four-year-old child with autism. That, in itself, is not unusual. Here's where it gets cool: This dad, Sharon G., lives in Israel and was writing to ask for permission to translate some of my posts into Hebrew and post them on his blog to make them accessible to an Israeli audience.

The first post is here. I am honored beyond words.

Actually, I do have one word, for anyone in Israel who surfs over from Sharon's blog:

Shalom.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Give till it hurts

Bud loves a good underwriting announcement. In fact, his fondness for underwriting announcements is one of the things that prevents us from exposing him to any commercial television at all, lest our days become filled with catchy jingles and advertising copy. It doesn't bother Bud, though - he's perfectly happy with the underwriting announcements he's adopted from PBS Kids.

One of his favorite activities these days is walking through the house, happily gathering videos, books and CDs from PBS shows, then lining them up and moving down the row, announcing each in turn:

"Clifford the Big Red Dog is sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Education..."

"Curious George is brought to you today by Shea Homes, Caring since 1881..."

"Funding for Arthur was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting..."

"Between the Lions was made possible by a Ready to Learn Grant..."

He's got a million of 'em.

I've just discovered that he plays a similar game on the computer, where he can now do underwriting announcements for shows he doesn't watch or shows that are not carried by our local PBS affiliate. He goes to the PBS Kids website, clicks onto the show's individual page, then scrolls to the bottom to look for logos. Now that he can read, he's able to improvise and create underwriting announcements of his own:

"Major funding for Cyberchase is provided by the National Science Foundation..."

"Fetch with Ruff Ruffman is sponsored in part by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations..."

And, of course, every single one of his underwriting announcements ends the same way:

"And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you."

Until a few days ago, I was not aware of Bud's high-tech computerized version of the underwriting game, so I was confused when he jumped up from the row of videos he'd been announcing on the floor and ran over to the kitchen table, where my husband and I were finishing breakfast.

"Mama," he said. "I want to do my contributions to my PBS stations."

"Yes, I know, Bud," I said. "You're doing them. And you're doing a great job."

"No," he said emphatically. "I want to do my contriBUtions to my PBS STAtions!"

"I don't understand, Bud," I said.

"I want to DO. MY. CONTRIBUTIONS. To my PBS STATIONS!"

I wondered if my son was suddenly becoming philanthropic, so I asked tentatively, "You want to make a contribution to your PBS station?"

"YES!" he replied, relieved that I was finally getting it.

"Do you know what a contribution is, Bud?" I asked.

"What?" he replied.

"It means you give money to PBS so they can make the shows you like to watch."

"Okay."

"You want to give your money to PBS so they can make the shows you like to watch?"

"Yes."

"Okay," I said, "Then you need to go upstairs and get your tooth fairy money, and we'll say 'Here, PBS Kids, you can have my tooth fairy money to make the shows I like to watch.' Okay?"

"NO!" Bud shrieked, clearly aghast at the suggestion that he'd fork over the money he's been saving to buy the Teletubbies DVD due to be released on May 1st.

My husband lowered his newspaper and looked across the table at us.

"Unfortunately, son," he said, "I'm afraid most of the country feels the same way about it."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

An open letter to Paul McCartney

Hi Paul,

I had a hunch you might stop by. You see, sometime last week I discovered that the traffic to my blog had suddenly jumped and I had several hundred more visitors than I usually see in a single day. After a bit of investigating, I learned that if you Googled "Memory Almost Full" that day, my blog post was the first hit that popped up. My traffic has dropped off a bit, as I've since been replaced in the number one spot. However, even though Sundays are usually slow around here, today things have been picking up again.

It seems that today I'm the number one Google hit for "Ever Present Past."

So it got me thinking. You've been in the press a lot lately, and it's not all been good news. You've just changed labels. You're set to release your first new album in several years. Perhaps you're wondering about the buzz... Are people talking? And, if so, what are they saying? If you wanted to get a sense of the spin, maybe you'd turn to Google. And if you turned to Google... well, you just might land here.

So you may be wondering: who is this person that Google seems to think is a McCartney expert? I have you at a disadvantage here since I blog with a pseudonym, but let me help you out a little:

Maybe you watched some of the interview outtakes from your last tour. Do you remember the woman who talked about her autistic son, and how much your music meant to both of them?

That was me.

Still fuzzy? Well, perhaps you remember the card you got when Linda died, from the woman who'd lost a daughter three months earlier?

Also me.

Or maybe you remember the summer of 1990, when your Fun Club office was flooded with letters from people all over the U.S. requesting that you send an autograph to their friend who had a birthday coming up?

Yes. Me. (And thanks for the autographed postcard, even if you only sent it to make the blasted letters stop coming.)

So perhaps now the picture is a little clearer. Or maybe it's not. I imagine that there are a whole lot of folks like me out there in the world. I've met some of them, actually. They are good people. And I'd wager that more than a few of them feel the same way about you that I do.

So, really, if you're surfing in here from Google, then I just want to say one thing: Thanks. Just thanks. You know for what.

Oh, and one other thing. I'm not sure which celebrity circles you run in, and I don't know if British celebrities tend to cross paths with other British celebrities all the time or not, but I have to say this just in case:

If you happen to run into the Teletubbies, could you pass this on to them?

Thanks again.

All the best,

MOM-NOS

Earth Day revisited

I just wrote a lovely little post about Earth Day. It was optimistic and cheery and feel-good.

Then I read this post from Andrea at A Garden of Nna Mmoy, which was just the reality-check and kick in the pants that I needed.

Earth Day - environmentalism - is not about feeling good. It's about changing the planet. And change is hard.

I won't try to re-write what Andrea has already written so eloquently. But I will ask you to click here and read it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ever Present Past

It's been a tough week.

A national tragedy, and then some troubling implications. A messy virtual living room. Illness on the home front. Severe weather that kept Bud's school closed for the better part of the week. Grandparents out of town, necessitating some scrambling to cover Bud's schedule shift while juggling a very heavy work load at the office. Resulting dysregulation for all concerned. And on top of it all, ongoing issues with our septic system that have created unlivable conditions and will be expensive to rectify. We are - quite literally - up to our ears in it these days.

And then - in keeping with the pattern of the last almost-thirty years - it's Paul McCartney to the rescue.

His upcoming album, Memory Almost Full, won't be released until June 5. Despite persistent and pervasive rumors in Macca-circles on the Web that the first single, "Ever Present Past," would be released to radio stations yesterday, I've yet to read any confirmation that the song has actually hit the airwaves.

But today, I discovered that the song has surfaced on the Web - you can listen to it here. It's terrific.

Actually, I don't know if you'll like it or not - I lost all perspective on that sort of thing a long time ago. But I'll tell you this - it is, without question, just the thing I needed today.

For those surfing in from Google who are looking for more information, the lyrics appear below. They suggest the difficulty of living life and moving forward with a very public, and therefore always present, past.

I get it. I do. And I wish Paul nothing but peace and happiness in his here-and-now. But I have to admit that I'm comforted by the knowledge that much of his past can remain ever-present for me.


Ever Present Past (McCartney)

I’ve got too much on my plate
Don’t have no time to be a decent lover
I hope it isn’t too late
Searching for the time that has gone so fast
The time that I thought would last
My ever present past

I’ve got too much on my mind
I think of everything to be discovered
I hope there’s something to find
Searching for the time that has gone so fast
The time that I thought would last
My ever present past

The things I think I did
I do, I think I did
The things I think I did
When I was a kid

I couldn’t understand a word that they were saying
But still I hung around and took it all in
I wouldn’t join in with the games that they were playing
It went by, it went by, in a flash
It flew by, it flew by, in a flash

There’s far too much on my plate
Don’t have no time to be a decent lover
I hope it’s never too late
Searching for the time that has gone so fast
The time that I thought would last
My ever present past

The things I think I did
I do, I think I did
The things I think I did
When I was a kid
When I was a kid

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My blog, my home

People blog for a lot of different reasons. Some blogs are designed to be a sort of virtual town square - a public forum in which all are invited to climb upon a soapbox and engage in robust politicking, complete with scathing diatribes and ad hominem attacks, in which free speech is valued above all else.

This is not one of those blogs.

In marked contrast to the town-square model of blogging, I think of this blog as my own personal living room. I've chosen the furniture, I've arranged the seating just so, I've brewed the coffee, and I've baked the pie. I welcome you into my home. I'm the mother of a child with autism and in my real life I don't know many other parents of children with autism. In real life, I don't know any autistic adults who talk to me about being autistic. In real life, I have a wonderful but small circle of educators and specialists to act as a resource. In real life, many of my friends and relatives live a long distance away from me. In real life, I don't get out much. But here, in this virtual living room, we can all come together. We can swap stories. We can offer support. We can laugh and cry together. And the coffee is always hot and never overbrewed. This is a good place we've got going.

But here's the thing: My door is open. I welcome visitors. I am anxious to hear your stories and I look forward to our dialogues. But even though we are gathering together here on the Internet, I want to be perfectly clear: when you are visiting here, you are in my home. As such, I need to invoke the tired parenting adage that teenagers loathe, but later adopt when they have children of their own:

My house, my rules.

And my primary rule is this: you may not enter my house and treat my other guests badly. If you walk into my living room and start trashing the place, I will ask you to leave. If you visit my blog and use my comments section to level personal attacks at my other guests or at my parenting style or at my philosophy on life, I will delete your comments without fanfare - without, in fact, so much as a mention.

My house, my rules.

That is not to say that you can't disagree with me or with anyone else who is posting here. To the contrary - I welcome alternate views! I want to know what you believe, and why you believe it. But I ask that when you broach delicate subjects with others with whom you disagree, you do so in the spirit of the moral conversation - by looking for the truth in what you oppose and the error in what you espouse. Be passionate and forceful when you share your perspective, but be respectful - and know that if your comments smack of mean-spiritedness or baiting or disrespect, then they will disappear quickly. What standard will I use to judge? I'll use my own standards, guided by my own beliefs. If I wouldn't stand for it in my wood-and-shingles house, then I won't stand for it in my virtual living room either. My house, my rules.

So, to my friends who have long been making themselves comfortable on my virtual couch but who have been strangely absent in recent days, to those friends and strangers who have e-mailed me privately over the past 24 hours feeling too vulnerable to post their thoughts openly, please come back. There are plenty of comfortable seats left, and I've just brewed a fresh pot of coffee.

Please, make yourself at home.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The thought I dare not think

My heart has been racing as the news reports have continued to stream in.

The details build up and fill my head until I'm dizzy, and though the words on the screen spin in front of my eyes I scan each update on Yahoo news and CNN and MSNBC, and think: please don't say it, please don't say it, please don't say it.

I've been afraid to name my fear, to say the words out loud - as though by giving them shape I will somehow make it so. And so it's continued to build inside me as I've wondered, Is anyone else bracing for it? Does anyone else see the storm clouds forming?

I've just discovered that Bev at Asperger Square 8 shares my trepidation. And now I know that I have company as I continue to hold my breath and hope the storm passes us by.

Teddy's turn to talk

Today's Bucks County Courier Times includes an update on Teddy Willis - and on the presentation he gave to his class yesterday.

It gets even better. According to the report, Teddy will also make a presentation to his local school board on Thursday night.

Well done, Teddy!

Well done, Teddy's mom Irene, for supporting your son and making sure that his voice was heard!

And well done, Teddy's teacher and school administrators, for acknowledging that you made a bad call, and then taking steps to make a better one.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A real autism expert

Teddy Willis is an eleven-year-old boy with autism. Because April is Autism Awareness Month, Teddy thought it might provide him the perfect opportunity to talk with his classmates about autism. If other children understood autism, he thought, perhaps they would be kinder to him and to other children who have it.

Unfortunately, Teddy's plan didn't play out the way he'd hoped it would. According to an article in the Bucks County Courier Times,
During a morning meeting last week, when a teacher talked about autism, Teddy raised his hand to share his story. But he said he was taken aside and told that autism is something “personal” he should keep to himself.

Teddy doesn't understand what's wrong with talking about autism.

The disorder is just a part of who he is. Sort of like how some people have red hair and others are better at math.

Teddy's school principal doesn't seem to share his perspective, explaining her position by saying, “There are other children in classrooms who don't realize they are different than anyone else. I need to look at the privacy of others.”

In other words, it seems that the principal thought it would be in students' best interest to: 1) deny Teddy an opportunity for self-advocacy and empowerment; 2) forego a significant learning opportunity for neurotypical children - not just an opportunity to learn about autism, but also an opportunity to engage in conversation about sensitivity and about appreciating difference; and 3) forfeit the potential for autistic students to be better understood because, she believed, some of them might be unaware that they are misunderstood.

I'm afraid that the principal's unspoken message to Teddy - and to all of the students she is trying to protect - might have been this: Autism is not just a part of who you are. It is not something you should share with others. There is something wrong with autism. There is something wrong with you.

I won't make the same mistake. If Teddy won't be allowed to talk to his classmates, then I'll follow the lead of other bloggers who are giving Teddy the opportunity to speak to a much wider audience.

Listen to Teddy's words here. Then pass them on.

Happy Autism Awareness Month, Teddy. And thank you for sharing your story with us.


Edited to add: I've posted an update on Teddy here.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

You know how the blogosphere feels like a small world? You surf around and find a brand new, very engaging blog, only to find that the blogger is blogrolling some of your blogging friends? Well, academia is a lot like that, too. It's a small world. And the longer you work in academia, the smaller the world gets.

I have friends who graduated from Virginia Tech. I know people who've worked there. I am probably one degree of separation away from many people who are working there right now. I've probably sat next to some of them at conferences.

So as the reality of the tragedy there has been unfolding in the press today, I have felt it on a very personal level. I hear about their students, but I see my students. I read about their campus, but I think about my campus. They are different, of course. But, really, they are the same.

My heart and mind are with everyone at Virginia Tech tonight. They are us. We are them.

Calm veneer

The Internet is absolutely swirling with rumor and speculation about Paul McCartney's forthcoming release on Hear Music, Memory Almost Full.

The latest is that the album will be brimming with songs based on the break-up of his marriage to Heather Mills, but will also be an homage to his first wife, Linda. The title Memory Almost Full is, in fact, said to be an anagram for the dedication "For my soulmate LLM" (with the LLM in question being, of course, Linda Louise McCartney).

I love it. And so, as a tribute to Paul and his tribute to Linda, I offer this post, and a virtual Starbucks latte to the first person who identifies the anagram that is its title.

Edited to add:

We have a winner! The venti latte goes to Harvest Mom, though I need to award tall nonfat decaf lattes to Wendy and VAB for their creativity.

Cheers!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Candy Land: Not Even Wrong Edition

Bud got the game Candy Land for Easter. He's never been a board game kid, but the time seemed right to try again and the game seemed manageable, so we broke it open on Sunday night. I explained the game to Bud - the premise, the rules, the goal - then we chose our playing pieces and we started to play.


And then I became The Candy Land Czar.

Bud drew color-coded cards and skipped his playing piece hither and yon around the board with nary a care about reaching the end as I barked out orders, re-directed him to move his playing piece to the "right" spot, and effectively stripped the game of any hint of joyful play.

The game ended with Bud winning, but I don't think he cared. In fact, I think he was probably relieved to have it behind him. As we packed the game back into the box I silently scolded myself. What had my goal been? Was I using the game as an opportunity to teach Bud the importance of following directions, taking turns, and paying attention? Or was I trying to have fun with him? The truth is, I was probably trying to do both - but while I may have had a modicum of success with the first goal, I think I failed miserably with the second. I vowed to do it differently next time - if I could ever get Bud to play with me again.

On Wednesday night, Bud agreed to give it another try. This time, I eased back on trying to micromanage his playing and, in response, he stepped up to meet the demands of the game. I taught him how to follow the cards to move forward to meet the established goal. He taught me that choosing a picture card that zips you back to the beginning is not a bad thing, because Look! Ice cream! , and that losing a turn on a Licorice Space is not really a penalty, but a treat - because, after all, it gives you twice as much time to enjoy the Twizzlers. He laughed with me when I accidentally moved his playing piece instead of my own, causing us both to lose track of our places on the board so badly that we had to go back several turns and start again. I indulged him in a jaunt off the Candy Land path to take a leisurely stroll through the Peppermint Forest.

Wednesday night's game took a lot longer than Sunday night's game. It was much less efficient. It was entirely nontraditional. It was a lot more fun. And - what do you know - we still made it to the end. We still reached our goal.

You can learn a lot from a board game.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Only in New York (or, Positively 4th Street)

I think I'm getting a taste of how Bud felt when the Teletubbies were in New York City and he wasn't.

Two of my very favorite bloggers in the whole wide blogosphere, Kristina Chew and MothersVox, will be reading their work in Brooklyn on April 19 at 8 p.m. at The Old Stone House at Fifth Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets.

Oh, how I wish I could be there!

Maybe if I write them a letter they could come to my house instead...

Memory Almost Full

We interrupt this illness for an important news announcement:

Unconfirmed Internet rumor suggests that Paul McCartney's new album, Memory Almost Full, will be released June 5.

No word yet from McCartney's official website.

It's no secret among longtime fans that McCartney tends to produce his finest work when he is experiencing acute stress in his personal life (witness Band on the Run, Tug of War, Flaming Pie, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.) Given that, this one ought to be a doozy.

In other news, Bud has returned to school this morning. I am able to lift my head from the pillow, but my brain still feels like Marshmallow Fluff. My Bloglines account shows 109 unread messages. Talk about memory almost full...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ad nauseum

We are currently in the midst of a bit of a blogging hiatus due to illness - Bud's and mine. I had called in sick to work yesterday to stay home and sleep away a head cold, but about an hour into my slumber I got a call from Bud's school reporting that he had delivered a bold display of sickness on the floor of the classroom.

The display continued all day long, as Bud was unable to hold down even a sip of water.

By late afternoon I started to get concerned about dehydration (which he'd experienced once before as a toddler and which I hope we never encounter again), so Nana and I packed him up and made the 45-minute journey to the doctor's office. Bud was sick in the car on the way, so we spent the trip issuing soothing reassurances about the outcome of the doctor's evaluation - "the doctor will help you feel better," "the doctor will see if you need medicine," "the doctor will take care of your tummy."

The doctor checked him out and was not concerned about dehydration yet, so we were able to forego the IV drips and anti-nausea suppositories I'd been imagining, and we headed home with only a plan for droppers full of Gatorade at 10 minute intervals.

We piled back into the car and were about five minutes into the return trip when Bud's sickness returned. As he hung over the bucket Nana held in front of him, his ears must have been ringing with the empty promises we'd made about the restorative power of a doctor's visit, because when the wave of sickness passed, Bud lifted his heavy head and from behind sunken eyes and sallow skin he said sadly, "It didn't work."

The good news is that after a mostly-sleepless night and many, many droppers full of Gatorade, we both seem in better shape today. We're still cocooned on adjacent couches, but Bud has graduated to toast and bananas and seems to be holding his own... as it were. If things continue to progress this way, we should return to our regularly scheduled blog-reading and comment-posting in no time.

Be well, blogosphere friends. We miss you.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The View from here

Since the post-Oprah spin got its own post, I think it's only right to give equal time today's episode of The View, which was a rebroadcast of a one-hour show devoted to autism that originally aired in January.

I posted my thoughts following the original broadcast of The View in a conversation with Kristen in the comments section of another post. You can follow the whole conversation here, but I've cut-and-pasted my thoughts into this post for your convenience:

First of all, I have to say that Toni Braxton is amazing for being on the show just four months after her son's diagnosis. She was getting a lot of information all at once, which is overwhelming for anyone, but to get it in front of a national audience must have been that much more difficult.

Overall, I think they made an effort to be balanced and tried to fit a broad range of experience in a very short amount of time. Of course, my preference would be that they highlight things like RDI and SCERTS, since that's where I hang my hat, instead of just ABA. There was some wording that made me cringe, but all in all I think they showed a range of perspectives.

The thing that was most difficult for me personally was that for some of the segments the parents had their children with them, but they talked about them with the hosts as if they weren't sitting there. For me, it felt a little intrusive, and I kept wondering what the kids thought about what they were hearing. There was one set of parents at the end who talked to the hosts while their daughter was backstage, then invited her out at the end to give the hosts presents she had made for them. That felt a lot more comfortable to me.

Then, in a later comment, I added:

Did you get the sense that Rosie has a personal connection to autism in some way? She didn't say so, but she seemed very knowledgeable and very familiar with the "lingo." She made reference to having read some of the books they mentioned, which made me remember that a long time ago she had Paul Collins's book Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism listed as a recommendation on her blog.

I don't know - I just got the sense that it went beyond "celebrity charity" for her. (She also seemed to be the driving force behind the one-hour special, since the other hosts only appeared briefly.)

So, if you saw The View, either today or back in January, what are your thoughts?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The post-Oprah spin

So, did anyone else watch Oprah today - an episode called "The Faces of Autism"? What did you think?

I just watched it on TiVo. I have to admit that I went in with low expectations, having read criticism of the show in the blogosphere and elsewhere on the Internet. I expected the show to be alarmist and overwhelmingly negative, but I was pleasantly surprised. There was negativity - a lot of it. But there was also a lot of love, a lot of footage of autistic children who were not in the throes of difficult moments - children who were smiling and kissing their parents. The parents interviewed talked about their challenges, their exhaustion, the failure of a marriage, the sacrifices they've made, the stress on their neurotypical children - but they also talked about how much they love their autistic children, how much their children have brought to their lives, and how much richer their lives are because of them.

Of course, there are things I would have liked to see: An interview with an autistic adult, for one. Any mention of RDI or other promising educational practices or intervention strategies that went beyond "the importance of early intervention," for another. It struck me that most of the parents interviewed seemed to have similar backgrounds: children who were developing normally until sometime after they turned 2, at which point they lost their previously acquired abilities; pediatricians who brushed off parental concerns and failed to diagnose the autism until much later. Neither of those things were true for us - but are these experiences more common than mine? And if not, then why was such a small cross-section of parents selected for the panel?

So, those are my thoughts: it was not ideal, but all things considered, it exceeded my expectations.

What did you think?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Rock video

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about rocks. This week I watched a video called A Way of Explaining Autism that takes an entirely different look at rocks and uses them as an analogy to describe autism.

It's fantastic.

The video's text was written by Dave Spicer and the filming was done by Amanda Baggs. Both Dave and Amanda are autistic. It's posted on Amanda's blog, Ballastexistenz, and you can watch it by clicking here.

Don't miss it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bud takes the cake

I've mentioned before that Bud has trouble grasping math concepts. His teacher and I have been working on ways to make math problems more accessible to him, and one of our first challenges has been trying to capture Bud's attention long enough to give him time to think about the question being asked.

This weekend, Bud's math homework included four word problems. His teacher had added a note for me: "Do you think you could adapt these types of problems with Teletubbies or Curious George's bananas?"

It sounded like a workable solution to me, so before we got started I sat down at the computer and re-worked the questions to make them more Bud-friendly.

So, for example,

Ruth had 7 stickers. Mrs. Rhoton gave her 3 more. How many did Ruth have in all?

became

Laa Laa had 7 flowers.
Po gave her 3 more.
How many flowers does Laa Laa have all together?


Bud read the whole problem out loud to me. Then he went back and read the first line ("Laa Laa had 7 flowers") again. I pulled out a blank sheet of paper and drew a picture of Laa Laa. Bud was fully engaged. Together we drew seven flowers next to Laa Laa.

Bud read the next line: "Po gave her 3 more." I drew Po, then together we drew three more flowers. Bud added dialogue: "Ee-ah," said cartoon Po; "Oh, thank you, Po," said cartoon Laa Laa.

Bud read the last line: "How many flowers does Laa Laa have all together?" I had cartoon Po say goodbye to cartoon Laa Laa, and I drew a border around Laa Laa and all her flowers. Bud and I counted the flowers together, then we talked through the math problem that our picture represented as Bud wrote at the bottom of the page:

7 + 3 = 10

Feeling confident, we moved on to the next problem, which was originally:

Mo is 6 years old. Her sister Ann is 14 years old. How much older is Ann?,

but now read:

Po is 6 years old.
Tinky Winky is 14 years old.
How much older is Tinky Winky?

I guessed that this kind of comparative thinking was going to present a greater challenge for Bud, so I tried to make the abstract concept of age a bit more tangible.

Bud read the first sentence: "Po is 6 years old." I drew a picture of Po next to a big birthday cake, and we counted together as I drew six candles on the cake.

Bud read the second sentence: "Tinky Winky is 14 years old."

"Po is six years old, so she had six candles," I said slowly. "But Tinky Winky is fourteen years old. So, what does Tinky Winky's cake need?"

"Frosting," Bud replied.

Okay, here's the thing. I will grant you that math is not Bud's strong suit. But it's hard to argue with that kind of logic.

Monday, April 02, 2007

An open letter to the Teletubbies

Guys, I need your help.

I read about your big appearance in New York on Kristina's blog, AutismVox, and about the tie-in you're doing to raise money for autism research. Then I went to check out your new website. The problem is that I checked it out while Bud was with me.

Oh, wait. You don't know Bud. Well, you probably get this all the time, but I mean it sincerely: Bud is your number one fan. Need proof? You can start here - or simply type "Teletubbies" into the "search blog" bar above. You'll be amazed by the number of posts that pop up. Bud is a dedicated, over-the-top fan. Oh, and he's also autistic.

Anyway, from the website we watched footage of you on the Today show, walking through the streets of New York and standing in front of the Statue of Liberty. And then we saw the interviews - first the one that showed you in costume, and then the one that revealed the four actors standing inside them: John Simmit, who plays Dipsy; Pui Fan Lee, who plays Po; Nicky Smedley, who plays Laa Laa; and Simon Shelton, who plays Tinky Winky. I watched Bud for a reaction: would he be crushed to learn that it was all illusion, and that you were regular people inside oversized costumes?

Just the opposite. Bud was delighted. The interview confirmed for him that you are not just characters who exist inside a screen. You are actual people who don your suits and go places. You get on airplanes. You go to New York.

You could come to our house.

Bud started planning immediately: He would write you a letter inviting you over to play. He would ask you to sleep over. It would be great. (I should point out to you here that Bud does not invite people to come to his house to play. This is a big deal. This is a Very. Big. Deal.)

I told him I didn't think you could go to kids' houses, but he wouldn't be dissuaded. He went straight to the computer and he typed like I have never seen him type before. He took care with spelling, going back and correcting the errors he spotted. He paused to consider how he wanted to word his request. He stopped typing in mid-sentence to ask me if you would have trouble getting your tummies into sleeping bags (I told him I thought you bought really big sleeping bags. Do you?) He even used punctuation - an apostrophe. I had no idea he knew how to use an apostrophe.

His letter is below, unedited. The words and the sentiment are his entirely:

deer teletubbies i want you to come to my house and play with
me and hav a bath and i dry yoer entenass i will put you in your seepingbags and you will go to mom and dad`s bed and sleep with me


As soon as he finished typing, he ran to the front door to wait for you. He was sure you were coming.

I told him how busy you were. I told him you had to make TV shows and movies and books, and that all of those things took a long time. I told him you had to do your jobs.

He said he'd wait until you were finished.

I told him that you have to work every day, and that you live in England, which is very, very, very far away. I told him it would take ten hours to fly here, and that you couldn't possibly come to visit and get back in time to do your jobs.

He suggested that we could drive to England to visit you instead. I told him that England is on the other side of the ocean, and that cars can't drive across the ocean. He said we could take an airplane. I told him that it costs a lot of money to take an airplane to England. He headed for his piggy bank.

I told him that we'd have to keep saving our money, and that when he is 18 we can take a trip to England. I have no doubt that he'll hold me to it.

So I'm sure you can appreciate the bind I'm in here. Bud will be 18 in ten-and-a-half years. How in the world will we find you when we get to England in ten-and-a-half years? And will you still have access to the suits?

You could really do us a favor and save us a long, angst-filled decade if you'd just come over for a night. I mean, we can't offer the allure of Manhattan, but there's a real charm to our tiny town in the woods. We know how to cook all your favorite foods. And you will experience a genuine, innocent, guileless love the likes of which you have never known before.

One thing I do need to mention, though: The bit about "Mom and Dad's bed?" I'm sorry, but I really have to renege on that point. Nothing personal. I hope you understand.

Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read this. Bud is absolutely certain that his "guys" won't refuse his invitation. Just to be safe, though, I'll be saving our pennies and planning our trip to Europe in 2017.

Either way, we look forward to seeing you.

Sincerely,

The NOS family

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A light in the darkness

One night last week, our power went out while we were sleeping. Bud woke up - luckily, he was already in our bed - and he got worried.

"Mama," he said, "I can't see."

I opened my eyes and looked around. We were hours from dawn on what must have been a moonless night, and without the artificial glow from the alarm clocks and nightlights, the bedroom was solid blackness.

"The power went out," I said.

"I can't see," he repeated.

"I know, Bud," I said. "The power went out."

Bud was quiet for a minute, then asked, "Can you fix my eyes?"

My husband reached over to his bedside table, picked up his digital watch, and pressed a button, illuminating its face.

"Its Daddy's watch!" Bud said excitedly.

"That's right, Bud," I said. "Your eyes are fine. It's very dark because the power went out."

We laid in the darkness and tried to go back to sleep, though I'm sure Bud and I both knew that we were awake for the day. As he tossed and turned next to me I thought about his reaction to the darkness: In the absence of information about what was happening, Bud assumed that the challenge he was experiencing was caused by some kind of internal malfunction (his eyes not functioning properly) as opposed to external conditions beyond his control (the power going out).

How often does that happen? How often does he assume that things are difficult because of some failing in him, and not because he is being subjected to overwhelming circumstances or unreasonable expectations?

How often do I assume the same thing about him?

I'll need to pay attention to that. I'll need to remember his response to the power failure. And I'll need to be careful that I'm not undertaking delicate eye surgery when all I really have to do is cast a little light.