Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wrapping up and moving on

I wrapped up my presentation by thanking the kids for inviting me in to talk with them, and I asked if they had any questions.

"Is 'The Upside Down Show' a real show?" Noelle asked.

"It sure is," I said. "It's on Nick Jr., and Bud loves it."

Laurie raised her hand, "What show is it from when Bud points his finger in the Name Cup at morning meeting and says 'Mrs. Nee! Mrs. Nee!'" The children laughed with recognition.

"Hmm," I said. "I'm not sure..."

"Yes," said Mrs. Nee. "And then he says 'Closer! Closer! Closer!'"

"Ooooh!" I said. "I think that's from Oobi. That's another Nick Jr. show. Oobi and his friends are hands." I made my hands talk to each other. "You might see him doing this with his hands sometimes. He's doing Oobi."

"What was your most memorable moment with Bud?" Noelle asked.

"Wow, that's a tough one," I said. "All of my moments with Bud are memorable. He's my favorite person in the world. I don't think I could choose one."

"What about your most hilarious moment?" asked Max.

"I'd like to hear about your hilarious moments with Bud!" I said.

Nathan raised his hand. "Does Bud ever wish he had a brother or sister?"

"You know," I said, "I'm not sure about that. It's not something he talks about. He doesn't like babies, because they're so loud, so I think he'd move out if I brought a baby home." The kids laughed. "But he would like a dog."

I heard a reaction on the other side of the circle and looked over to see shocked expressions of the faces of some girls who have known Bud for several years.

"I KNOW!" I said. "He used to be really afraid of dogs. But now he likes dogs so much, he'll ask people he doesn't know if he can pet their dogs." There were soft "wow"s around the room, and then Sean, who'd just returned from recess, raised his hand.

"How did that happen?" he asked. "What made him stop being afraid of dogs?"

"I'm not exactly sure," I told him. "I think that being introduced to dogs little by little over a long time helped him get used to them. All of those little changes turned into a big change."

The girls nodded in agreement and offered: "Yes!" and "That's a REALLY big change!"

And then the kids, who had paid such careful attention for so long, headed off on a tangent about their own dogs and their thought on which other animals Bud might enjoy.

"He'd like my dog. He's really big, but he's quiet."

"Maybe he'd like a turtle."

"He says he wants a giraffe," Molly told me.

"Yes," I said. "He wants an elephant, too."

And then it was time for the kids to line up and go to chorus. We said our goodbyes, and off they went.

Ms. Walters, Mrs. Nee, and I had talked through the best way to approach the rest of the day with Bud. I was afraid that someone would mention to him that I'd been there - and if I'd been there, but not seen him, I knew that would feel like betrayal to Bud. So, Mrs. Nee went to retrieve Bud from the Special Ed office, and told him that I'd come to pick him up early. Bud was delighted, and rushed into the classroom and into my arms. We used the "found time" to stop by the eye doctor's office, to look around and meet the doctor so that it would be familiar when he went for his scheduled eye exam. It was a good use of time and, for Bud, felt like a legitimate reason for being picked up early.

Bud's quick return hadn't given the teachers and me much time to debrief, beyond a showering of "You're amazing!"; "No, YOU'RE amazing!," so we spent the evening sending e-mails back and forth to celebrate the magic we'd just witnessed.

In one e-mail, Ms. Walker wrote:

At the end of the day I asked the kids to share one new/neat/cool thing they learned from our talk today...In a perfect world, I wish you could have been there to hear their voices and watch them immersed in their own "think time" over their experience today and the way got excited over each other's comments.

Kallyn - I really liked knowing Bud knows he is different but doesn't care, but I think it still must be hard to be Bud sometimes.

Nathan - I thought it was so cool that by changing just one small thing it can help Bud so much - like by making my sentences shorter and giving him time to think. It seems small to us, but in can make a HUGE difference.

Simon -Being different is OK.

Lilly - The echo way he learned to talk. "You want juice?" And how he was so computer smart by the time he was 2.

Noelle - Connections to people who speak the same language.

Max - I never knew there were so many types of differences within autism.

Travis - I'm just really happy to know that Bud is happy being himself. I think about that a lot. Oh! and toasters and hair dryers - how cool was THAT?

Brandon - I learned some of the ways that Bud learns, and that the big thing is he just needs more time to get used to things.

Damian - It's cool that he doesn't care what people think.

The Amazing Platypus - This has me questioning what I think normal really is - after this I feel like Bud fits normal and that I'm the one who is different.

Laurie - That if you don't get an answer right away it's ok - he's just working on it and will get there.

Kelly -He's happy being him.

Kayleigh - Maybe we aren't so different after all - that what makes us different and happy makes him different and happy, too.

Molly - I get it now that when he repeats other people's words it's to help him share his emotions.

Carla - That he has an amazing memory and great hearing.

Dan - I think it can help me understand more about the way he talks.

Sean - That he isn't afraid of dogs any more.

Jennifer - The way he thinks about things has really changed - like about dogs and wacky hair.

Zoe - It's cool about how his body sends him signals for movement breaks.

Cathryn - I liked learning about how Bud started talking.

Nora - I feel like I get why he gets attached to people now - the whole Japanese thing. I just loved how she made it so we could understand.

It was a big day for all of us.

But the class has continued to reflect, and to talk, and to work on turning their thinking into action.

More on that next time.


kirsten said...

holy cow.
I want to give all of those kids hugs.
You, too.

Thank you for this series. I have been thinking of who to send links to so everyone I know (esp. those who work with my son) can read these posts.

And I realized that the most important person I can have read this is my daughter, my spectrum kiddos older sister.

Who is in fourth grade.
So really, thank you for this.

Niksmom said...

Oh man, I haven't even made it through my first cup of coffee and the tears are flowing freely. Such a gift you have exchanged with those children; they will be Bud's champions, I think, through some of the transitional years ahead. And I know better than to think that this experience hasn't touched you, changed you in some ways, too.

The comments from the kids are really insightful. The ones I think REALLY nailed it? Travis, Keelin, and The Amazing Platypus. I just want to squeeze them all and tell their parents what amazing children they are raising.

Bud fits right in. It is so clear he is loved by his friends.

Judy Jeute said...

The Amazing Platypus-boy did he nail it! With his name and with his statement!

Jenn said...

Wow. Just wow.

Professor Mother said...

sigh... "replete" is the perfect word to describe how I feel reading this series. It's like the perfect meal- easily digestible, yummy, good company and made you want to linger and appreciate it- and wonder how you can share it with someone else. Well done, indeed!

And even more exciting when it starts even better, new things. When it's the first in a step of small changes for Bud- for the field of autism, for other parents.

Unknown said...

Those kids are amazing! And so are you for being able to connect with them like that. Bud is one lucky boy to have you!

Thanks for sharing this with us.

jess said...

those kids are going to change the world.

thank god.

(and thank you.)

Kerri said...

I came across your blog on Autism Speaks' Facebook page and I'm so glad I did. Reading about your experience with Bud's friends was amazing! I feel like running up to my daughter's school one day and giving a similar presentation. I know when the time is right to educate her friends on her differences I'll have a great resource.
Those kids are wonderful, I can only hope that the children my daughter goes to school with are just as amazing. Thank you for sharing!

KAL said...

You rock, mom-nos. Those kids are awesome too and you know what I love about this? They will always remember the day you came in and they learned about differences in a real, concrete way. That is life-changing. Just think if they can take what they learned and apply it to their lives and pass it forward.

Bud is one lucky boy to be in such a supportive school and to have you as his champion. And I'd say the autism community is as well. Thanks so much for writing the series.

xine said...

I love these kids! They are a testament to full inclusion's potential! More parents/teachers/etc need to read your blog.

Thank you so much for this series, it is truly inspiring.

Stacy said...

Just found your blog and your series on talking to Bud's classmates about autism.

Thank you. I will be sharing this with the planet. And i echo the other commenters who feel these kids will change the world. Well done, Bud's mom.

A BCPSS Parent said...

Wow! What great comments. I think my son is in a similar classroom setting. I am always impressed that his 11 year old classmates have such a deep understanding of his rather complicated behaviors.

My favorite quote was a classmate explaining to a younger kid in the school. "He's not contagious or sick or even broken. Autism is just his way of being." Something this kid had just figured out over time.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

As a mom who's child has recently been assessed as "eligible for services " I have combed the internet for help. I have found definitions, I have found militant moms, I have found treatments, but your blog is the first to answer questions that *I* have about my son. Especially, "what does the future hold for him?".

You are an amazing interpreter for the hair-dryer crowd and I hope to be just as good an interpreter for my son and a good toaster teacher for him, as well.

My French teacher in junior high school had a great saying on her wall - to learn another language is to gain another soul.

I now know that his future is as limitless as any child's.

Your meeting with Bud's class should be take home material for any family whose child has been found to be on the spectrum. It's far more tangible than "mild to moderate autism" and "with this program he will be able to be mainstreamed".

Julia said...

Hey, I saw something almost 2 weeks ago that made me think of The Amazing Platypus -- I was driving south on Lamar Blvd. in Austin, in fact, crossing the Colorado River, when in the other southbound lane, I passed a car that had a license plate frame reading "Darth Platypus".

It made me happy to see something so silly, and it made me happy to be reminded of Bud and his classmates.

(I gave the location as exactly as I did so that if you want to tell TAP about it, he can find the place on Google maps, if he'd be interested in that.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have provided a resource that I've shared with my family which has made their sight a little bit clearer with regards to my two little autistic peanuts.

Thank you for speaking in a language that not only children can understand, but adults as well!

Unknown said...

Your comments were so insightful and so lovely. I have my own bud. (Quinn) He has been through every thing you describe and more and come out the other side ...now 12 and at high school. Still so different and the thing that sticks in my head most of all is that he is the happiest kid I've ever met. Love lots. (Quinn's Dad., Paul.)
(Melbourne, Australia)

Ashlee Marie said...

This was all so great (all the posts on this day). When 3 of my 4 kids were diagnosed with aspergers last year the Dr. suggested I go to the school and talk to the kids and teachers, but I wasn't sure exactally what I could do. Your day was just great! My 4th child seems to be on the same path as the older three and with all 4 being diagnosed I need to get really good at explaining to people what it all means. My children are now at a charter school for children on the autism spectrum and it's been so wonderful for us, but our extended families and friends still have questions and need to learn what it's all about. I think I'll do this for our next family reunion! Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting your classroom discussion. I wish there were more parents who felt comfortable enough with themselves/their child/the topic to discuss it with their child's peers. I must say that we did something very similar with one of my special ed students (I am his para), let the kids ask questions and answered as best we could - and the kids have been so wonderful with him. They really seem to get that he is different, but still a nice boy who belongs in their classroom. The place I was most happy to see a change was on the playground, where they would invite him to come and play the games that he liked best (tag, chase, spinning on the tire swing) together. His social connectedness improved by leaps and bounds that year.
Now I am sending this series of blogs to the teachers and paras who will work with him next year. Thanks for being a toaster who understands hair-dryers!

Anonymous said...

I find it ironic the timing of when I found your blog. I've been struggling a lot recently with my relationship with my son (3.5, HFA). Even though I've read, read, read just about everything I can get my hands on and, theoretically, I "get" him....well, this series just showed me how much I don't. And how far I need and can come to helping him help himself.

Thank you for posting this. Thank you for speaking with Bud's class. I only hope that when my son reaches 4th grade I'll be ready and able to do the same for him.

I'm going to send this series to my entire family. I think it'll help them immensely.

Aimers1212 said...

I have laughed and cried during the whole series of posts about this talk. I swear you were talking about my Devin (he's now 6). I saw so much of Devin in Bud and it makes my mommy heart rejoice that others will love him NOT in spite of his differences but BECAUSE of his differences. Thank you so much for helping this mommy out who is on the same journey. It has helped and I will direct others to your blog with spectrum kids as well as those that just need to understand my son a little bit more. WONDERFUL BLOG!

Meredith said...

I'm blatantly stealing from this whole series for a diversity presentation I'm giving next week. Your explanations are far more eloquent than anything I could have come up with myself.

Gen said...

I'm with Meredith. I want to steal your amazingly eloquent explanations. Bud sounds almost exactly like my 9 year old daughter. She's in 2nd grade, and I did do a presentation in the beginning of the year. But nothing like yours. I just read the book, "Since We're Friends" to the kids and took their questions as they came.

Thank you thank you thank you a million times over for writing this blog.

Kristen in StL said...

Thank you so much for posting this. A friend shared it on Facebook and I just had to read it immediately. My older brother is autistic and they way you explained things to Bud's class really helps me to know how to explain things to others. I have been with him on this earth for 27 years and you even helped me understand him a little better :) I was so moved when you told the children that Bud was your favorite person in the world. I know that he is your son and of course you feel that way! I just thought it was so relatable for those kids to know that he is perfect to his mommy just as they are perfect to their mommies :)
God Bless you and Bud!

Anonymous said...

Awesome story, I always tell ppl that my daughter has Autisim but Autisim doesnot have her.So many traits are the same for her and so many things shes out grown like Bud and the dogs .Awesome job in what you done with the kids letting them know its ok to be different....

Mike Barrett said...

Thank you for the incredible series. It is said that a philosopher is someone who takes something very simple and makes it very complicated, and a genius is someone who takes something very complicated and makes it very simple. You ma'am are a genius!

In advocacy,

Mike Barrett

Lisa said...

What a discovery! I just read this after receiving it from my yahoo autism group and I am in tears in my office. You have found the most brilliant way to describe autism and it encompasses my 7 year old twin boys in varying degrees. I will forever be a fan of your blog. Thank you for your eloquent, fun and creative words. Different is the new normal!
Lisa in Denver

Monado said...

I'd say you have a gift for teaching; I loved hearing how you engaged the children instead of lecturing.

You really should make this into a PDF booklet that people can download for a couple of bucks -- you can put the money into your child's college fund or your "I need a break" jar. (I think all mothers function better with a day off every week or two.)

Adoptive Mom NOS said...

I became a foster parent seven years ago and now have adopted six siblings, three boys on the autistic spectrum ages 4-11. Their sister who is 10 asked me this weekend what autism is and I was shocked, I guess I thought she knew so I went online to see how to talk to her and explain it and found an article with a link to your blog. THANKS! I shared that article on Facebook. I will be stealing your words to talk to my kids! Really, thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. This is so encouraging. Those kids will change the world. You are a amazing mom.

cheryl said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this. The series of blog posts, your strength and courage, the opportunity to do this in your son's classroom, that the kids and the staff were so receptive. I have two little boys with autism who have just left the safe haven of early start and moved into traditional kindergarten world. Such an inspiration - thank you so much for sharing!

UmmH said...

You are amazing,t hat was amazing, those kids are amazing, Bud is amazing! Thank you so so very much for sharing this and doing this for the kids and for Bud!

Carolina Nightingale said...

Big tears. my kids are the other end of the spectrum... just enough to make their classmates think they are hairdryers and leave them confused at why they are so different... and I am SO GRATEFUL for your thoughts and very in tune with the Spirit of God analogies. What a blessing for that class to have your Bud in with them, and what a blessing for Bud to have you as an interpreter to the world. Thank you,from the bottom of my heart.

Amy Johnson said...

thank you. that was a wonderful series to read.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading this! My oldest has Sensory Processing Disorder and a Language Delay and reading what your son goes through brought tears to my eyes! I loved how you explained it to his class!

Theresa said...

Being an educator in the multi-needs/special education classroom, I really enjoyed how you explained autism. You did an amazing job helping your son's classmates understand what autism is when most adults still don't get it!

donopper3 said...

I am sitting here fighting back tears, if the whole world could sit and really hear this and conversations like it- we could do away with bullying and alot of the violence that is happening today. Things that are happening, I believe in a large part due to a lack of communication and understanding.

Vicky Saker Woeste said...

I've just forwarded the link to this series to my son's school principal and to the committee that is putting together an in-service program to help the staff at his school understand autistic students better.

You did a brilliant job, and you did a loving thing for all those kids, not just Bud. They will never forget what you said to them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. My son in is in 4th grade. His teacher has been encouraging the kids to invite his classmate, with autism to play. I was so proud of my son when he told me he approached the boy to invite him to go play with him. I'm not sure he was properly prepared for what happened next. I will be taking from your presentation to teach my son about how he can be accepting and understanding. What a difference it will make, to educate him and hopefully he will learn to be a friend to this boy and others.

Anonymous said...

I know you wrote this 3 years ago, but THANK YOU. My daughter was just diagnosed. I love the way you describe autism and how your son's brain works. My daughter is only 3, but I think that the analogies you made are going to stay with me for a long time. What I really needed today was a simple and positive explanation of autism, and you gave me that.

Kelly B said...

This is amazing! <3

Chelsea C said...

Hi there! I just read this blog post on my search for info for my school project. I have to create a presentation for young kids in kindergarten to grade four to teach them about their autistic friend. I would really love to email you to get some basic ideas! If you get a chance and you have the time, could you e-mail me at chelsea-cayer12@hotmail.com
I absolutely loved this! This project is giving me such a great insight into autism and i can totally relate to the kids at my school and in my class (gr.11 by the way). Anyways, if this is possible send me a quick email! I'd love to hear from you!
Chelsea :)

Jess said...

This is the best thing I have ever read on autism. I just read the whole thing, and it's brilliant, really.

I'm at work and crying.

I'm so moved, and 6 years after you wrote this, I hope Bud (and all his amazing classmates) are thriving with their toaster and hair dryer brains.

You are amazing, and Bud is lucky to have you.

Prepper momma said...

10 years and you are still affecting people with this story. I am crying and hope one day my son has classmates as amazing as this ❤