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.