Saturday, March 13, 2010

A hair-dryer kid in a toaster-brained world

Okay, so: the presentation.

First, I should tell you that we orchestrated it with the stealth of CIA operatives. We didn't want Bud to see me in the building, because we knew that my presence would be difficult for him. (Mom does not belong in school. Mom should only be here when she has come to take me home.) We all synchronized our watches, and as lunchtime approached, Mrs. Nee walked Bud to the lunchroom, where he was meeting another staff member, and Ms. Walker readied the classroom, while a student, Noelle, helped me slip in the side door and up the back staircase.

While we waited for a few students to return to the class with their hot lunches, Ms. Walker let me know that they'd told the children a little bit about my blog, read them a few excerpts, and let them know that people all over the world read about their classroom. The kids were delighted to know that they had fans, and even more delighted by the idea that they'd been given pseudonyms when I wrote about them. It seems they'd had some fun trying to figure out who was who.

Then, the children returned with their lunches and settled at their desks, which had been arranged in a circle. I sat down to join them, and it was time to begin.

I started by thanking them for inviting me to their class. "I hope you know," I said, "that you are really, really important people to Bud. He doesn't always show friendship the way other people do, but believe me - you are important to him. He talks about you all the time. He tells me all about his buddies. And he loves having buddies."

They grinned their response.

"I also want to thank you for asking such great questions." I held up their index cards. "Your questions were fantastic, and they tell me that you really pay attention to Bud."

Dan raised his hand. "I wasn't here the day they wrote cards," he said. "But I do have some questions."

"That's great, " I told him. "How about if I answer the questions that other people have asked first, and then if I haven't answered your questions, you can ask me more about them."

Dan agreed, and I turned to the rest of the class. "You can all ask more questions. Sometimes when something seems different, people can get nervous about asking questions, but I want you to know that I want you to ask questions. It's the best way to learn about things you don't understand."

My intro was over and it was time to get into my answers to the questions they'd written. I'd prepared ten pages of notes. I wanted to help the kids understand Bud's differences, but I didn't want to present him as "other," as though he were an alien living among them, as though there were something wrong with him, so I'd developed some analogies - some things that I hoped would help them relate Bud's experience to their own.

The first one felt the riskiest. It was my make-or-break analogy - the one on which the rest of the presentation hinged. If it didn't resonate with them - or, worse, if it seemed lame - I was afraid I'd lose them. I knew that one ill-placed snarky comment from one of the kids could make the whole thing unravel.

So I took a breath, and I started talking.

"The first question that lots and lots of you asked is: What is autism?

"Autism is something that people are born with – you either have autism or you don’t have it. You can’t catch it.

"Having autism means that your brain is put together differently. Your brain still works perfectly well. It just does things differently from other people’s brains.

"Let’s think about the brain as a machine. You know that your brain controls everything you do. You use your brain to think about things and to make your body do things. Your brain also controls things that you don’t even think about. You don’t have to remember to breathe, because your brain does it automatically for you. You don’t have to remember to blink, because your brain does it. So, sometimes you USE your brain to do things and sometimes your brain just does things because that’s what it’s wired to do.

"The same thing is true in autism. Bud uses his brain for everything, too. But because there are differences in the way his brain is connected, there are differences in the way his brain reacts to things.

"Now, we all know that your brain is a machine that's made of tissue and neurons and nerve cells. But let’s pretend it was a more simple machine. Let’s pretend your brain wasn't made of tissue and neurons and nerve cells, but instead, it was made of metal and plastic and electrical wires. And let's pretend that when you put that metal and plastic and electrical wire together, it turned into a toaster."

Here, the class laughed - the good kind of laughter. I carried on. They were with me.

"And let’s pretend that MOST of us had toaster brains. Some of us might make white toast and some wheat toast or rye toast, and some of us might make light toast and some of us dark toast. Some of us might only toast bagels, and sometimes we might even burn the toast, but for the most part, all of our brains would be able to do the same thing: make toast.

"Now, think about the pretend world that we have just created. In our world, MOST people have toaster brains. So, when we make the rules for our world and decide how we want to spend our time, what do you think we’ll decide is the MOST important thing a person can do?"

Nora raised her hand. "Always try hard and do our very best?"

"Yes!" I said. "And WHEN we do our very best, we will be doing a great job making..."

"Toast!" they responded in unison.

"Yes! Because we have brains that are really GOOD at making toast - so we will want to have a world where it's REALLY important and REALLY valuable to make toast. Right?"

Heads nodded around the room.

"Now let’s pretend that Bud’s brain is ALSO made of metal and plastic and electrical wires, just like our brains, except that when HIS metal and plastic and electrical wires get put together, they turn into a totally different kind of machine. Instead of being a TOASTER, Bud's metal and plastic and electrical wires turn into a HAIR DRYER."

I swear, I heard gasps.

"Now, there’s nothing WRONG with a hair dryer, right? Hair dryers are great! There are some things that hair dryers are really good for. There are some things that a hair dryer can do even BETTER than a toaster. But it is REALLY, REALLY hard to make toast with a hair dryer."

They laughed again, and nodded, and totally, completely got it.

"So, in our pretend world, even though Bud has a perfectly wonderful hair dryer brain, it’s going to be hard for him, because we toaster-brained people have decided that the most important thing that people do in our world is make toast. And Bud probably can make toast with his hair dryer, right? But he is going to have to work a lot harder to make toast with his hair-dryer brain than we will with our toaster brains. It will probably take him a lot longer to make his toast. And no matter how hard he works, his hair-dryer toast will probably always look different from our toaster toast."

The room filled with murmurs of understanding.

"But, on the other hand - think about THIS! When we toaster-brain people have wet hair? We are REALLY going to hope that Bud and his hair-dryer brain are around."

Nathan piped in. "Because we could get ZAPPED if we tried to use our toasters!"

"Exactly," I continued. "And the same thing is true in the real world with our real brains, that are made of tissue and neurons and grey matter and, uh..."

"And important stuff," offered Travis.

"Yeah, and important stuff," I said. "Because for most of us, when that important stuff gets put together, we have a certain type of brain. And we have created a society that says the most important things are the things that most of our brains are really good at - things like:

"Talking and communicating with people;

"Making friends and spending time with people;

"Doing lots of different kinds of things, having lots of different kinds of interests, and trying new things.

"Because our brains are really GOOD at those things, we try to spend most of our time doing them. But those are all things that, because of his autism, Bud’s brain has a really hard time doing.

"Language is difficult for him and he doesn't talk the same way as other people.

"Being social and knowing how to interact with people is difficult.

"Changing his routine and trying new things is difficult."

The classroom resonated with affirmation. Bud's classmates knew exactly what I was talking about. They knew, without me explaining any further, what kinds of behaviors I was talking about. I could see the understanding in their faces.

"But, remember how there were some things that the hair-dryer brains could do better than the toaster brains? There are ALSO things that Bud’s brain is really GOOD at doing. There are things that HIS brain can do better than a lot of our brains can do.

"I bet you can guess what some of those things are. Can you?"

Hands flew up all over the room, and without my prompting, they recreated the list I had written in the notes in front of me.

"He's really great on the computer. He's better at it than LOTS of people."

"He has great hearing."

"He can remember lots of lots of things."

"He can remember all the words to TV shows."

"And he can remember the words to songs."

"He is very musical."

"He's a great speller, too," I added. "Once he learns a word, he usually remembers how to spell it."

"If I had a brain like that," said Nathan. "I'd read the whole dictionary and learn all the words."

"That would be a great thing to do," I said. "And it reminds me that Bud is also a really good reader."

Molly raised her hand. "And he has a great sense of humor, too."

"He does have a great sense of humor," I said. "And that's one of the ways that his brain is a lot like other people's. What are some of the other ways that Bud is just like everyone else?"

Again, the hands flew up.

"He can see just like everyone else."

"He looks just like everyone else."

"He's human."

"Yes! He's human - which means that he has all the same feelings that everyone else does. And he loves the people in his life. And he likes to play and have fun. He likes to laugh, he likes to swim, he likes to eat pizza. In lots of ways, Bud is just a regular kid."

I looked around the room at the smiling faces of Bud's classmates - his friends, with their toaster-brains firing.

"But a lot of your questions were about some of the ways that Bud is different from you and about the things that are harder for him than they are for a lot of other toaster-brained people. So, let’s talk about some of those questions."


Up next: Question #2 - Why does Bud repeat things from TV?

134 comments:

Pia said...

You are my hero.

And so are those kids.

ghkcole said...

Forwarding his to people who need it; deep thanks for paving the way....

Noel said...

This is a really beautiful metaphor. I have a feeling I'm going to be referring people back to this series of posts for years to come, including when it comes time to explain my 8-year-old son to his little sister.

graceunderautism said...

um yeah, I pretty much love you right now. Thanks for this. There are people in J's life who would like to understand him better and this will help.

Looking forward to the rest of the answers.

conuly said...

It's almost shameful to admit, but I'm so jealous of Bud's schooling. His classmates sound so *nice*.

pixiemama said...

i LOVE your analogy & i'm in more than a tiny bit of awe.

xo

The Monkey and Me said...

I love this and I love you for facilitating this, and no doubt that will be the new link we all use for "a way of explaining autism" Beautiful - thank you - anxiously awaiting more...

Royal Ranch said...

For a mom of "toaster brained" children this is a wonderful eye opener. It may sound silly to those of you with children of "hair dryrer" brains, but there are times these lessons are good for us as well. Children need to learn to love the differences of one another no matter what they are. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us in such a concise manner.

*m* said...

Breathtaking -- them, and you.

Niksmom said...

*sigh* It's pouring rain outside, the river is rising (we're safe from flooding, whew!)...but I SWEAR the sun is shining right now.

I am eagerly awaiting more of this story. (Like THAT was a mystery, huh?) And,um, the book. I htink you and Bud's class should write a book about this. SERIOUSLY.

Brenda said...

I LOVE YOU! And I LOVE THIS POST! I can't wait to read more.

Jordan said...

This is absolutely amazing - I love it and can't wait to share it! Will you remind me what grade Bud is currently in? Thanks for posting this, can't wait for part 2!!

kirsten said...

wow. wow. wow!!!

Stimey said...

What a great way to explain this. In a million years, I would never have thought of this, but it makes so much sense. I just printed out this post because when the time is right, I am going to use this analogy. I look forward to hearing about the rest of your day with the kids.

Those are some amazing kids, by the way.

Pam said...

Brilliant, and beautiful.

tulipmom said...

This is such an incredible analogy and is going to help SO many people. Yes, you should write a book "Toaster Brained Children in a Hair Dryer World." Wow!! Thank you.

DRS Are The Best said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. My son regularly asks questions about why his younger brother and sister (autistic twins) are "different" and I've been at a loss of what to tell him. This helps me in so many ways.

Joeymom said...

Great job. And my Joey DOES read the dictionary.

Kate said...

Wow. That is an amazing analogy. Kudos to you for thinking of it. Kate

KAL said...

You are brilliant. I love your analogy and now have something to go for when trying to explain differences to others. Oh, btw, your post is circulating... I first saw mention of it on my FB newsfeed by a non-mutual friend! Watch it go viral :)

sharonheg said...

Well, WELL done. I'm an O.T. by profession and spend a good portion of my career breaking concepts down into chunks that people can understand. You ROCK! Between a great school, great teachers, great classmates and a great mom, he has got to be one the luckiest hair dryer-brained kids on earth. ;-)

Professor Mother said...

I'm with Niksmom- this series of blogs is so important... and your analogy is absolutely breathtaking in its simplicity and clarity. You NEED to expand your experiences and insights beyond this blog- wonderful and cited as it is. (But only expand- keep up the blogging- it's too much fun to read!)

Thank you... for giving the words to so many others.

Claire

jess said...

Yes. Hell yes. Go on (please).

MothersVox said...

Awesome. This is awesome. The toaster-hairdryer analogy is brilliant. So happy to read this! Can't wait to read more.

kyra said...

i LOVE IT!!!! yay! toaster brains and hair drier brains! you are BRILLIANT!

The Monkey and Me said...

This is a book!!!
Your explanations are wonderful. I have printed these posts and are sharing them with other parents, teachers I work with, and my son's own teachers.
I cannot wait to hear the rest.
This is brilliance. Thank you once again and again - for the gift of your words. You have an eloquence with words and can articulate in a way most of us cannot.
Thank you.

mymuse said...

This is amazing. You should do a school road show! It shows that most kids are understanding and caring as long as they "get it." God bless!

John said...

Amazing and simply magical. This is one of the most imaginative, creative, fun, spot-on-target things that I have read in a very, very long time. Your analogy is simply genius! If you ever right a book about your son, you have the title right here. Kudos!!

Caitlin Wray said...

I am not at all sure that "blog" is an adequate term for what you are doing here. No offence to "blog", but surely there is a more poetic phrase to be found. Thank you for this gift of love for your son that is so brilliant it shines on the rest of the world. Caitlin at www.welcome-to-normal.com

Laurie said...

This is awsome!

I'm the mom of a (recently diagnosed) high functioning autistic child. It's great reading things like this!

guerrilla mama said...

As a mom to a son recently diagnosed with Aspergers, this brought tears to my eyes! Thank you. I'm sure I'll be sharing it with lots of people!

Cindy Thomas said...

Everything that explains your son...he's musical, has a great memory, a great speller, great on computers, is my 5 year old son 100%! Thanks for sharing :)

Maddy said...

Thank you so much for this post, and thanks to the person who posted the link on Autism Speaks' fb page or I never would have seen it. It is such a perfect analogy, and I'm sure many of us will refer to it for years to come.

Photographics said...

This is wonderful!!! You did a great job with those kids! this is going on my Facebook page right now!

Elyse Orecchio said...

This is great, thanks, I can't wait to read more. I teared up when the kid said "human."

-Mom of a sweet 6-year old hair dryer brained boy.

ko-ster8 said...

Thanks, I have hair dryer boy aswell, and this is a great to read!

Nichole said...

I got to the bottom of this and realized that I had tears running down my face. Those kids are absolutely amazing and your son is so very blessed to have them in his life! I could only imagine how lucky my son would be if the kids in his class were half as wonderful.

Sarah said...

My son who has Aspergers asked me the other day what Autism was because he said sometimes he just thinks he's a freak. It made me so sad to know he felt that way and I had trouble finding the right way to explain it all to him.
THIS he will understand. This moved me...and will without a doubt be on the reading list tonight :) I appreciate your words...

AmyLK said...

WOW! Can I share your post with Son's teachers and child study team? this is SO AWESOME!

Thank you for sharing and I can't wait to read about the other questions!

Cris Lopes said...

Perfect Metaphor!!!

Kaveh said...

Absolutely great! Loved every second of your experience! It is so important to realize that without Hairdryer brains world would not function either!
Your preparation about change in routine hits home so well for me.
My son lost his balloon and it took him a long time to get over it! It inspired me to write a book about it. As I know you inspire many with your insightful posts. thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

I am sitting in tears. I think I may do this with my son's class. I absolutely love it.

Anonymous said...

AWESOME!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom here! My son was recently diagnosed with PDD. We are now homeschooling as a result of his "hair-dryer brain" not connecting at the toaster school.

I have forwarded your blog to his past teachers. I hope that someone will be touched by it and have the nerve to share it with others. So many kids get left behind in so many ways.

Twinkle said...

This literally brought tears to my eyes. I have never been able to come up with the words to explain to my son's peers just what you did in this post. Thank you for making me see that it is possible to reach out and give them understanding.

kp Libretto said...

I LOVE this analogy!

Anonymous said...

Anyone that has been touched by a gifted child has been touched by this story as well as the comments. The story will be passed on in my future as well as my children and anyone that knows us. Thank you!

Mommy Cracked said...

Lots of admiration (and yes, plenty of tears!) from me after reading this. You have given these children the power of knowledge.

EHDCoyne said...

I am forwarding this to my son's teacher and the school social worker. I hope they read your wonderful story and learn from the incredible connection you made with Bud's classmates. And I am crying right now, just wishing I could do the same for my little guy who is miserable this year. He's suffering from the teasing he is receiving and a general lack of understanding.

Anyway I'm hoping for the best. Until then, here's a toast to you and for Bud, I'm blowing a hair-dryer kiss too.

david and michelle said...

as many said before me, you are amazing! we have just discovered that we need to explain to a group of 6yr olds why our son is different, but how is the question that has been on my mind...

well your blog came across my computer, thought i would check it out. and now i know there was a reason why your post hit my screen. you are the answers i have been looking for! thank you so much for sharing the toaster/hair dryer story, and i look forward to reading more about it!

ps...yes i cried too!

Anonymous said...

My girlfriends son is autistic and daily i try to figure out how it works what it affects and how to work with it. Honestly I have never met a more beautiful child. This blog is great thank you very much!!!

Missy said...

Wow. I am amazed at your ability to come up with this metaphor for others to understand. Your son is lucky to have you in his corner.

I came upon your blog from United States of Autism on Facebook. I will definitely be following you now.

I am always trying to find a better way to explain my son's autism so people can understand it better. I will be using this analogy.

Squillo said...

Belatedly chiming in to tell you how wonderful this is! Might have to steal it for my kid's class (with attribution, of course.)

Thanks for blogging it.

Hilary Woodcock-Reynolds said...

This is just stunning. I love the analogy for its simplicity and accuracy.

Jen said...

Loved this. Do you mind if I use your analogy with my differing ability presentation that I do at my daughters's school. They are both Aspies. I will reach close to 800 kids and this is my third year of doing it. Also I am new to the blog world how do I get signed up to hear the rest of the story:)

LaurenAct513 said...

This was amazing. I am also the mom of a toaster brained kid. You explained things better then I ever could! Thank you so much!

Lauren

LaurenAct513 said...

Oops, I meant a hair dryer kid. Actually, I have one of both and your explanation is great if my daughter ever asks questions about my son.

Eva / Sycamore Street Press said...

Wonderful explanation. Thank you.

Sarah A. said...

I just found your blog through Kirsten's blog. This was just *amazing* to read. Thank you for sharing...I'm looking forward to reading about the rest!

Anonymous said...

I found your post on the Austism Speaks facebook page. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! The comparisons are amazing. I'll pass this on to many others.

Kaveh said...

I went ahead and shared your post link on my Blog and my Amplify channel so more people can be educated and inspired. Thanks again.....Re-read the post again and still find it fascinating! :)

Pie Maker said...

BRILLIANT! THANK YOU THANK YOU!

Jen C said...

This is one of the best analogies I have ever run across. I used to work with preschoolers in an early intervention program where we did ABA therapy.

Part of my job was to go to colleges and talk to students about autism. I explained it as being dropped into a foreign country where the customs and language were completely new. Your lesson is much more illuminating and accurate.

This morning I sat my 7 year old daughter down to explain autism to her as part of world autism day.

I'd only ever explained autism to psych 101 students not kids. So I spent the morning sifting through sites. That's how I ran across yours. And I am so happy I did.

I don't want my kids to fear or pity people with autism. I just want them to be patient, kind and accepting.

Thank you for this brilliant piece and for sharing something so personal.

Peter said...

What a wonderful analogy! I really like it! Thank you!

Recently I started posting interestnig analogies I found on the web on blog.ygolana.com. I thought it could be a good idea to create a place where people can share useful analogies.

meltdownfreedisney said...

Love it. Thanks for giving all of us a script. I love toast and dry hair, as well.
Can I add you to my blogroll for April, and then, probably never change it?

Meredith said...

Thank you. What a wonderful way to explain neurodiversity to kids, and what a fantastic group of children Bud has for classmates. Sharing this with the world.

Doc Meek said...

Does anybody know the tune for "A hairdryer kid in a toaster-brained world?" I predict that, like "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer," this Mom's "Hair-dryer kid in a toaster-brained world," will go down in history. I've been helping kids mitigate learning and attentional problems for over thirty years now, and it is an axiom with me that "Mother knows best." This Mom makes that point sharper than a surgical needle, right? - Doc Meek, Learning Consultant, May 7, 2010, Sherwood Park, Alberta, CANADA

Writeart said...

I just want to say THANK YOU - over and over and over!!!!! This entry and subsequent ones about your presentation to the children was more than a light bulb moment - it was like suddenly emerging from a blinding fog into brilliant sunshine and clear skies. You GET IT and not only that you can EXPLAIN IT so that others can understand it too. After about 5 1/2 years of stumbling in the fog and trying to figure out the path myself we are just now getting confirmation of what I pretty much knew all along. Our sweet Hannah has PDD, probably Asperger's, ADHD, Sensory Integration Disorder - and maybe even early onset Bipolar - other alphabet soups acronyms may attach themselves over time. I am going to read your blog from Day 1 and follow you faithfully. Please keep writing and bringing us all out of the fog into the sun of understanding and empathy for our wonderful and in many ways mysterious children!!!

Nina said...

thank you for this. I posted it on my blog - http://parentplanet.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/great-sites-9-9/

Anonymous said...

Big hugs for sharing this! I love, Love, LOVE what you told the kids. It resonates and explains so well! It should be required reading for every teacher! Thanks also to bloggger "Diary of a Mom" for the links to your posts. :)
Lisa D.

kim mccafferty said...

Wonderful post, fantastic metaphor, and coming from a former educator, what a phenomenal contribution to our schools. Good for you!

Ms. Moran said...

This is a great blog. Reading your description takes me back to when my daughter was 6 and I was going through what you are now. But also lets me appreciate my child who somehow manages to make toast with her hair-dryer brain.

buttonlass said...

Wow. That was brilliant. I'm forwarding it on to other moms I know.

My son Nico is 3 and has Down Syndrome. This analogy can also be used very effectively for him. I hope you don't mind if I use it with his classrooms later.:)

tangenjill said...

Brilliant! Thanks for translating...I can see this as a scene that if filmed would be a great teaching device, too:)
As a mom I'm grateful to those who open their hearts and share what works...bridging worlds and revealing common humanity.

tangenjill said...

...and maybe the blender-(read: smoothie-maker) brained kids are those who bridge the gap b/w their hairdryer-brained sibs and the toasters-at-large world;)

www.tangenjill.com

Alice Wills Gold said...

Love this. I am gonna share it with a mom I just met. Her son has autism and she has been frustrated lately. I keep telling her that he has this amazing brain, and would knock her socks off with his knowledge, but can't communicate it as well.

I love your analogy. Autistic people are such a blessing to so many.

Tracy said...

What a great way to explain autism to kids. This NEEDS to be written as a children's book!!! I know I would definitely use it in my classroom.

Babs said...

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I am the mother of an ASD child (Aspergers) and appreciated this so much. It's brilliant, and moving, and unbiased and totally understandable by toasters AND hair dryers. :) Thank you for this.

I agree with those who suggested a children's book be made of this. Even if you did it yourself with an e-book... I would buy it!!!

Dannene said...

This is really awesome, thanks for sharing. I laughed when you talked about sneaking into the school. I used to come in sunglasses to try to hide from my son (like a movie star hiding from their fans). I love the talk you had with the kids and your attitude in general.

Khaidyn's Mum said...

I wish i had bumped into your brain when i struggled to make people understand what autism was and how it affected my eldest son. You are simply amazing to put it into such an eloquent analogy. I have decided to follow you and refer parents of newly diagnosed children with autism back to your blog because they way you broke the grey areas down can only help them, to gain a positive fair perspective on their own situations and not drift off into despair over what may be in the future.

AJ said...

that was beautiful! I didn't do that at my daughters last school, but I'm gonna do it at her new one, Thank you for all your hard work

Autismthroughaparentseyes said...

What a fantastic way to describe such a complex concept. Thank you so much and I am sharing this one.

JD Moore said...

I can see the kid is quite clever and knows what is going on to have such good detectors for his own strict criteria on life. I can see too that the other kids seem to be very judgmental. Is this a phenomenon of human development? But...please don't say that his brain is "normal." It isn't, in my opinion. It's like a machine, but with a part or two missing that keep it running, but with deficiencies that one can learn to compensate for, just as a blind person can develop a more acute sense of hearing. I may have some signs of what the doctors call Asperger's Syndrome. Some people may say I am a neurotypical and just faking it. I did have my own preoccupations when I was younger and did have a stronger sense of order: my immediate environment had to be "just so." I still have those desires in the background. I learned to compensate for these things on my own. I had to because I am too old for the special treatments that federal government mandates eventually brought about and now cost us serious taxpayer money. A questions remains for me: Is this really some kind of sickness (possibly because if the autism is really bad that the kid shuts himself off so much that survival is in question), or is this the system of values some of us feel we are born with and will give them up only with great difficulty? Probably both, this is not a simple "yes or no" question.

Faithful said...

I am so glad that I read this blog. It is such a wonderful and unique way to explain the differences of autistic children. You are awesome, and Bud is a lucky boy to have you as a mom. Thank You!

penguinconqueso said...

This series of entries meant so much to me. My son is PDD-NOS and "Konnichiwa" especially...I just read that one and cried. I'm so glad your son is in that classroom. And I adore the Amazing Platypus. :)

JD Moore said...

I'm going to follow up and say that the author did well to show how most things that one may call "mental illness" (regardless of Thomas Szasz) are FUNCTIONAL disorders, using, as it were, the wrong tool for the job, rather than an ORGANIC disorder. It brings me to mind one of the "larger questions of life," that having to do with "social deviance." It's easy to say with kids, the American cultural values being the way they are, that they are "innocent." When that person grows up, still has autism, and will be obviously "deviant," is it now intentional? And the big question is, "How much of social deviance is a result of sickness and how much of it is intentional? This is something governments have to deal with on a daily basis because we all want to be "tough on crime," yet what's the good of punishing one who will not be responsible for their actions, whatever the reason?

hollyctr said...

Wow!!! This was perfect! Thank you so much for sharing this! I will probably use the same idea in my Son's new class next year!!

Valerie C. said...

I'm not typically a blog reader/follower but this one caught my eye. Thank you for this wonderful post. I loved that you were able to help the other children connect with your son and how is brain is "wired".

5onfaith said...

Thank you! Inexplicably moved to tears, thank you!

5onfaith said...

Thank you! Inexplicably moved to tears, thank you!

ELAILSE said...

I loved this post, I will translate in portuguese language and post in my blog ....can I??

Patricia said...

Please give me the courage to have this conversation with my son's new 6th grade class. I've always wanted to do this but was just so darn intimidated.... I know I shouldn't but it's been a long time since I was in middle school....but we are new to the area and I think we've finally managed to settled in with a nice group of class mates for Terry....I really want to do this next year as he starts middle school.. I know it's a tough year for ALL kids which makes it more frightening...

michelle Watford ( miller) said...

I truly love how you explained this to the kids. i really wish I could do that sometimes. some kids just dont understand why my son does the things he does. they dont realize he does them out of impulse. He really is a great kid, and secretly I cry at night wishing for his sake that he could be normal, if just for a day. and then I have to remind myself of all the wonderful things about him. So thank you for writing that. i will be sharing it with others.

Michael said...

What a wonderful analogy! From a hair dryer dad with a hair dryer son.

Teglene said...

What an awesome post that I will be sharing far and wide! Why did I start crying when near the end one of the kids said, "He's human"? So amazing, especially for the mother of a child on the autism spectrum.

Crocheted Little Things said...

Your brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful and simple explanations and what a great school to allows the kids to be exposed to all this!

Belle said...

I came here from Autism Normal and I have to say your post was more than worth the read.
What a great way of explaining and helping to understand autism!
Great job!

PepperPascal said...

I can think of only ONE WORD right now. WOW.

Ashevilleautism.com said...

I absolutely love your analogies. I would love to use this example during one of my presentations. I provide educational services to children on the Autism Spectrum. I also provide teacher and parent support. I am helping to set up a program for kids with Autism in a private school in Miami, Florida. I am presenting to ALL of the teachers next week, and wanted to find ways to help them explain Autism to their students...thank you! You are helping an entire school. Rest assured that I will cite your blog...you should be getting more members soon!

Thank you for everything that you do!

Jennifer S. Lingle, M.Ed.
Director of Autism Consulting and Training, Inc.
www.ashevilleautism.com
www.autismconsultingandtraining.com

Teresa said...

I believe you should write this into a story/book for others to use when trying to integrate their child into mainstream classes!

squaw-mom5 said...

Your analogy is pure genius. I will adopt it, both as a teacher in Junior High and as a mom with a Junior High age Asperger son.I always stumbled with my explanations because emotions got in the way. You helped me and I will quote you. Thanks and good luck.

K.D. said...

I recently found your blog while researching ways to teach typically developing kids about autism. I work with kids on the spectrum in the hospital setting daily....and I now consider myself a Mom-NOS addict.....and I'm ok with that. Anyway, this post is genius and reminded me of a favorite Albert Einstein quote, "everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid."

Keep it up Mom-Nos!!! I can't wait to share your blog with some of the mothers I work with!!!!

Mar said...

I am an autism consultant...Love the way you explained this....I'm sharing it with some of my colleagues. Thanks for putting it in simple words

Tara Kaberry said...

Okay I have just come across this and it is a brilliant analogy, right down to explaining that hairdryers can in fact make toast only they have to work harder. It's also a completely accurate description of my son, right down to pizza and spelling. I love it and I hope you don't mind me using it.

sarah elwell said...

Oh wow, awesome! I am so impressed by you, and by those kids.

Michelle Sarabia said...

My son is PDD-NOS (among other things), and I am diagnosed with Aspergers. I also am a special ed teacher that works regularly with Spectrum students.

You are an awesome person, an amazing Mom, and your blog is a blessing. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

As a general ed teacher, with several autistic students in my classes, this is really helpful! Thank you for sharing this great explanation.
jgk

Anonymous said...

I have a hair dryer kid!! Thank you so much! This brought me to tears. My son is severely autistic and I get these questions a lot from other kids at church, cousins, school etc. So, do my friends from their children. AND from his older toaster-brained sister! I don't always know what to say...It's hard to explain! You did it beautifully. Genuinely from my heart, THANK YOU

Donna P. said...

From a toaster-brained Mom of a hair dryer brained kid...
Bravo!

rg2 said...

We are just going through screening for our son right now and am struggling to communicate with our 7 year old daughter what this looks like for us and to help her understand why things are a little upside down. I googled talking to kids and found my way here to what seems like a lifeline for me! Thank you!!!! I am a new follower!

amy lynn glor said...


Pieces like this are so important -- they're usually forwarded to me by friends who have had an "a-ha" moment while reading them.
I find it so encouraging that people want to better understand our beautifully unique children.
Thank you for your hard work & willingness to share.
I'll be following MOM-NOS from now on :)

Anonymous said...

i wish i was able to put into words how much you and your beautiful little hair dryer have helped me with this post. i am in the process of trying to find the right way to explain my little "coffee pot" and his behaviors and traits to his soon to be step siblings. you are beyond amazing and i hope you know that the things you've said will change far more lives than you can possibly imagine. thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! lots of love to you and Bud.

Jessica said...

Wow! What an amazing way to put things in perspective. I teach at an After School Program and would love to use this as a way for my students to understand autism. Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful way to tell children about autism. I love this and will use this myself for my son's classmates. Right now he i s in a singular classroom setting. Hopefully he will be back with his classmates soon. Thank you for this great analogy.

agapeautism said...

Agape autism is a site about the causes and treatment of autism.The purpose of the site is provide parents with information on how to treat autism with a natural approach.

Henry's mom said...

What an amazingly simple, yet powerfully effective way to explain autism. I will definitely share this with my son's class.

Thank you!

ravikowadkar said...

This is too good. You made it so simple and convincing. Gr8.

Mark F. said...

Absolutely the best analogy of autism I have ever heard.

Abez said...

This analogy is brilliant! I used it this morning for a school presentation and so many of the things you mentioned are totally relevant to my son too- but he doesn't read the dictionary. He reads country road atlases and maps, so now he's not only a hairdryer, he's also a GPS. :D

Anonymous said...

thank you very much. We're new to our diagnosis and I've been struggling with how to answer my daughter's heart broken questions about why her brother just screams at her when she goes near him and why he won't let her play with him...I think I can now get a start on explaining to this incredible six year old what's happening to her little brother. Now I'm crying again, I wonder when that stops?

Anonymous said...

Wow... Just wow thank you for this!!

Julie@teachinggoodeaters said...

Please turn this into a children's book!!!

ejjedad0612@gmail.com said...

I know this happened several years ago, but I'm so glad Google led me to you! My wife and I had been considering visiting our son's first grade class to make a presentation like this, when some peer issues developed that made it more urgent. So, yesterday his teacher emailed us and asked if we wanted to do it today! I can't tell you how much content AND confidence I gained from reading your recaps. We did the presentation this morning, and I (and his teacher and aide) feel fantastic about how it went. So, THANK YOU for providing such an open, detailed narrative of your experience. It is an incredible resource and testimonial.

Andy

Creep Creature said...

Thanks for this. I was looking for a good way to explain to my older children about the autism diagnosis my son received this week. We have known that he was a bit of an odd duck, but this analogy will help all our kids understand what is going on.

peaceblessingsandjoy said...

This is AWESOME! I am an Autism Resource Para in the largest school district in MN. I get to share about ASD with a second grade class - one of our students is struggling and we need to get in there and offer some information to the students in his class (and his teacher can use the presentation too, I must say). I love the metaphor and think it could really resonate with them. Hope you don't mind if I share this wonderful perspective with them all! Thank you for this... You are doing a top-notch job!

butterflypixie said...

Inspired

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simplybesheilakeegan said...

As a mother of two on the spectrum this brought tears to my eyes, well put and well done

Serenity said...

I love this!!! Am now dumping my computer analogy (which is so overused and cliche) to the hair dryer vs toaster brain analogy. Very creative idea!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this message. I will share it as well!

Nuraghe

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Helen said...

Thank you so much for this series of blogs. It helped me understand better why my daughter is having such a hard time to sit still. Oh and just to let you know: your blog is currently all over Facebook in The Netherlands. I shared it, and so did some of my friends. Your blog is so helpful! :-)

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Kind of like washable markers! Not submersible in water, they only wash out of clothes. Thx!

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