“The next question that some of you asked,” I said, “was about why Bud misses me so much when he’s at school.  And some of you asked why he gets so attached to some adults at school and always wants to be with them.

“Remember how I said that two of the things that Bud’s hair-dryer brain has trouble with are using language and being social with people?  Well, those two differences can make places like school really hard for Bud, because in school, most toaster-brain kids spend LOTS and LOTS of time talking with people and being with their friends.  Bud is not always sure how to do those things - they’re things that feel like making toast with a hair-dryer - and that can make school a hard place to be.”

The kids nodded, and I continued.

“Imagine what it would feel like,” I said, “if one day you came to school, and suddenly everything was happening in a different language.  Everybody was speaking French.”

I looked up and caught the eye of The Amazing Platypus, whose face brightened as he raised his hand - which reminded me that The Amazing Platypus comes from a bilingual family and speaks fluent French.

“No, wait,” I said to The Amazing Platypus.  “Not French.  Everyone was speaking Japanese.”  The Amazing Platypus’ face fell.  I glanced around the room to make sure there were no other suddenly brightening faces.  There weren’t.

“Yes, everyone was speaking Japanese.  Your teachers taught all of your lessons in Japanese.  All of the other kids were speaking Japanese.  You couldn’t understand what anyone was saying, and they couldn’t understand you.  The kids were playing Japanese games that you’d never played before.  Everybody was really nice to you and they invited you to play, but you didn’t know how to play the games and it was hard to learn because they were explaining the rules to you in Japanese.  You could kind of tell what was going on , but you also knew you were missing a lot of things.  And you knew you had to work a whole lot harder than everybody else just to get a little bit done – because you didn’t speak Japanese.”

The children voiced a range of reactions, from mild amusement to abject horror.

“Then imagine that someone showed up at school who spoke BOTH Japanese AND English.  They understood you, they could help other people understand you, and they could help you understand other people.”

“I would be so RELIEVED!” Zoe said, her voice filled with genuine emotion.

“I bet you would,” I said.  “How about the rest of you?  Would you feel relieved, too?”

They all agreed that they’d be delighted to have an interpreter arrive.

“And then,” I said, “how would you feel if that person had to leave, and you were all alone with people speaking Japanese again?”

“Oh no,” came the chorus of responses.  “That would be terrible!”

“That’s how Bud feels every day when he has to say goodbye to me.”

Their faces registered sudden understanding.

“Bud knows that I understand him.  I know his scripts and I know what they mean.  I can guess what will be difficult for him, and I can find ways to make them easier.  And when I leave him at the door every morning, he feels like I’m leaving him in a school full of people who are speaking Japanese.

“So, he tries to find other people who can fill in for me when I’m gone - people who can help him understand and be understood by all of you Japanese-speaking toaster-brain kids.  And when he finds someone who can help him – someone like Mrs. Nee – he gets really attached to them and he wants to be with them as much as possible.”

Next:  Question #7 - How can I be a better friend to Bud?  How can I be a person Bud would like to hang out with?

Mom-NOS’s Konnichiwa, the eighth entry in a series for Mondays at Shift Journal, was first published at MOM – Not Otherwise Specified, and appears here under the terms of this Creative Commons License.

on 11/15/10 in Autism, featured | No Comments | Read More

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