Friday, March 19, 2010

Friendly talk

I looked at the next question in my notes, then at the eager faces of Bud's classmates, and I smiled.

"The next questions you asked," I said, "were 'How can I be a better friend to Bud?' and 'How can I be a person Bud would like to hang out with?'

"First of all, I want to tell you that you already ARE good friends to Bud. You accept him just the way he is, and you let him know that he is an important person in this class. You are very good friends.

"But there are some things you can do to make it a little bit easier for Bud at school. One thing you can do is to try not to talk too fast when you talk to him. Think about how you talk to one of your toaster-brained friends. You probably
sayalotofwordsandyoumovequicklyfromtopictotopicandohiloveyournewhaircutanddidyouseethattvshowlastnightandourmathhomeworkwasreallyhard. Right?"

"Right," they agreed, laughing.

"But to Bud, that all sounds like Japanese. It's easier for Bud to talk with you when you speak a little more slowly and you don't use as many words. You don't want to talk to him like he's a little kid, of course, but sometimes, it's just easier if you say a few words and give his hair-dryer brain a little time to think about them before you say some more.

"It can also take extra time for Bud to answer questions, because his hair-dryer brain has to work harder than your toaster brain to recognize that you're asking a question, figure out what kind of answer you're looking for, put the answer into words, and say them out loud. So, when you ask him a question, give him plenty of time to answer. Try to wait three times longer for Bud than you would with one of your toaster-brained friends. With a toaster-brained friend, that would feel like a long time, and you would probably ask the question again. But with Bud, you just need to stay quiet and keep listening - and most of the time, you will find that he'll answer."

The children nodded, obviously taking mental notes.

"Sometimes it can be easier for Bud to have a conversation with you when you ask him about things that you know he's interested in. You can ask him about the scripts he's using or about the music he likes. When he's talking about things he knows well, he doesn't have to work as hard to find the right words to use.

"But keep talking to him about the things that interest you, too. He might not seem to be interested at first, but remember that we said that taking an interest in new things is one of the things that's really, really hard for his hair-dryer brain. Sometimes he just needs to hear about things a little bit at a time to start to get comfortable with them. And sometimes, he ends up finding out that he really does like something new.

"A couple of years ago, Wacky Hair Day was scary for Bud. Nobody looked the way they were supposed to look and he didn't know what to expect. But, over time, he started to get used to the idea, and now he loves Wacky Hair Day. This morning when I dropped him off, he told me he was going to laugh all day."

His friends laughed, too.

Coming up: Question #8 - Will Bud always be this way?


Judy Jeute said...

Looks like you've got a tough one coming...

KW said...

A friend-- from a spectrum class, of course--just sent me the link to the first in this series. And I just spent an hour reading old posts and catching up. I couldn't believe I hadn't read your blog before (but I'm old school--not much blog reading). It's tempting to see so many similarities: my "high functioning" kid was drowning without support (and now he gets more); I try not to diagnose my college students, but am amazed at how meeting and working with them confirms how much wonderful range (and how much autism) there is in the academic world; I wish so much I'd been able to talk to my son's mainstream class about his fabulous hair dryer brain. In short, thanks for a rich reading and connecting experience. I'll be keeping up with Bud.

kirsten said...

Waiting longer for a response is a great thing to tell them! That's something that's hard to remember as parents sometimes, too. That's one of the things I try and tell the people who work with my son - it's easier if you tell them a specific time - like 7 seconds or something.

These posts just continue to be fabulous. thank you so much for them. I'm going to link to you and send links to many people in my neighborhood!

Kim said...

These posts are fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing them. The answers you are providing to Bud's classmates are answers we should all have when we are asked questions about children with autism. I've been exploring your blog since stumbling on this series of posts, and am enjoying it all. Thank you so much... and you have a new fan.

MOM-NOS said...

Kirsten, it's funny - I probably would have said something more like 20 seconds or 30 seconds... way past the point where the silence is usually uncomfortable for us toaster brains.

What I would have liked to do was give them an actual in-class example of what it would look like, but by the time we reached this part of the presentation, our time was almost up and I was starting to fast-track. In fact, the boys who'd gone to recess came back to the classroom around this point, which was my cue that it was almost time to wrap.

If I HAD done an example, I probably would have started by giving a toaster-brain example:

Q: "What was your favorite thing at school today?"

(4 second delay for thinking)

A: "I liked the math game that we played."

And then a Bud example:

Q: "What was your favorite thing at school today?"

(6 second delay)

A: "Well..."

(6 second delay)

A: "I..."

(6 second delay)

A: "I just..."

(6 second delay)

A: "No, I mean..."

(6 second delay)

A: "I just like the math game we play."

I also wanted to give an example from earlier in the week, when Noelle was his buddy. At drop-off time, Bud and I learned that Mrs. Nee was out sick, and Bud started getting anxious. The sub and I started talking too much (and, naturally, provoking anxiety instead of allaying his fears). Noelle waited for a break in the action, and then said calmly, "Bud, Mrs. Nee is sick today." And then we all stopped talking, and Bud said "Okay."

We walked into the building and Bud, still dysregulated, started heading for the hallway, and Noelle said encouragingly, "Don't forget to say bye to Mom." And he turned around, gave me a kiss, and was off. It was the perfect communication in the moment - few words, on point, just what he needed.

But, I didn't want to start some sort of weird "some buddies are better than other buddies" dynamic, so I left it out. Still, though, I left the building thinking, "that child is going to be an educator someday..."

kirsten said...

seriously, she has a gift!

I said seven because I'd learned that at spectrum seminar I went to once. And it (usually) works for my kid.
Obviously for each kid it's different.

But adults rarely wait more than 2 seconds before re-stating what they were saying. No wonder it gets confusing!

MOM-NOS said...

That's true - a "typical" response probably has a 2 second delay more than a 4 second delay. Now I'm tempted to start following Bud around with a stopwatch. :)

Anonymous said...

Would you be willing to allow others to use your presentation at their school? You have a gift - I am one of the ones that want to bottle you up and drag you from school to school but since that is impractical do you have a suggestion on how to get this specific info out there?

Anonymous said...

I love your blog! It is so helpful for me because I teach a preschool inclusion class and I have difficulty knowing how to explain peoples differences to preschoolers! You have really described things so well so that children can understand and it has helped guide what I can say to them in my class.