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 sayalotofwordsandyoumovequicklyfromtopicto topicandohiloveyournewhaircutanddidyouseethattvshow lastnightandourmathhomeworkwasreallyhard.  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?

Mom-NOS’s Friendly Talk, the ninth 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 11/22/10 in Autism, featured | No Comments | Read More

Leave a Reply