Thursday, May 7, 2009

On explaining autism to a "neurotypical" 1st grader






A few days ago, our 1st grade neighbor boy, "B", went with Sayer and I on a walk around the neighborhood. Rather, I walked, Sayer rode his scooter and "B" was on his bike but mostly walked along side me, chatting. As we cruised by the elementary school one block from our house, that "B" attends, and he asked me, as he has in the past, why Sayer does not go to his school - aka our "home school."

I explained that Sayer has autism and that he is in a special program at another elementary school (which, mind you, is a only a mile or so away). I asked him if he knew what autism was, and he said he had heard of it.

I gave him the Readers Digest version, saying Sayer learns differently and has some problems talking, and with being a good friend, and can get overwhelmed when a lot is going on. Also, sometimes it makes his behavior not so great. And "B" replied, "Oh, yeah, like when Sayer doesn't always answer me when I ask him questions." Yes, like that, I said.

By then, we were back at our house, and "B" seemed satisfied with my explanation. Sayer, naturally, ran right into the house without saying good-bye to "B", giving me another example to describe to him how kids with autism have limited social skills. With that, "B" was on his way, quite nonchalant.

Has anyone had a similar experience? It's hard to know what is too little and what is too much information to share. Sort of like the birds and the bees.....

6 comments:

Pam said...

Hi Carol, I think you handled this very well. Terms like "special education" and "disabled" can be used at times in schools in hurtful ways,"autism" is just what it is, just like having brown eyes. As a blue/green eyed mother with brown eyed kids, I use that analogy quite a bit. By the way, glad you were outside. Lots of recent research on Vitamin D. which our bodies can make when we get sun exposure. Lack of Vitamin D is thought to be one possible factor in the higher rates of autism in norhwest as compared to rest of the country. Take care and ride on, walk on......Pam oedreetuisclbe out in the ti make cihihqamiarck

Carol said...

Thanks, Pam. We are outside A LOT. Sayer loves to walk - helps keep me fit!

Anonymous said...

I think it was fine. That's how we explain it to our other sibs (very age appropriate and positive and matter of factly). Kids 'get' that our oldest is 'different'. I believe in keeping it simple and answer questions that the kids have honestly, but appropriately.

Katie

Mia said...

I think the simplest, most direct and honest explanation is the best. Not only for children, but even for adults. One of the best conversations I've ever had was with the neighborhood "mother's helper" who is 13. She said it's not like he doesn't know the answers, it just is harder for him to tell you... YEP. It's like that.

She asked a ton of questions, honest curiosity and has become an advocate for our son in a neighborhood full of impressionable children whose parents may not be providing the best explanations.

daphne said...

Hi Carol, chanced upon your site surfing for blogs writing this particular post - http://bit.ly/PFuZP. Its dedicated to you and all the rest of the incredible mothers who tread the road less travelled with such grace and dignity. You truly are an inspiration and i'm really happy to see that Sayer is just doing so well! Keep on keeping on.

Carol said...

Thanks for the kudos, Daphne!