“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”
We interrupt our usual programming for a public service announcement.
Why? Well, in part because I already wrote this and I don’t have time while wading through daily life, the wreckage of Lehman, the bailout of AIG, the acquisition of Merrill, my husband on a plane to Vegas for the rest of the week or anything and everything else currently rolling down the hill at me to find form for everything else rattling around in my head. (Vive la runonsentence!) Oh, and because it might actually be helpful to those of you who are looking for a way to talk to your young children about autism and respecting and understanding differences. Whew. So here goes.
After watching the video of my speech at the kick-off to the Autism Speaks Greater Boston Walk, a dear friend of ours came to me looking for help. His two sons, who are five and seven, attend school with both of my girls.
My friend said, “I’ve listened, Jess. I’ve really listened to what you’ve said and I want to help. I want to talk to my kids and teach them how to be good friends and tolerant little people. But I have no idea where to begin to explain autism to a five year old or to tell my little boy how he can help. What do I do?”
Yes, I know how blessed I am (again) to have friends like this in my life. I thank my lucky stars every day and I tell them enough that they seem to have gotten a little tired of hearing it.
With the IMMENSE help of one of Brooke’s former teachers, the fabulous Mrs. Jen, I put together the ‘book’ that you will find below. When I say ‘help’ I mean that she basically re-wrote my drivel and turned it into something useful. Hooray for Jen!
As you’ll see, it’s in very rough form. The formatting on WordPress is a mess, not to mention that it contains random pictures that I pirated off of Google Images, so um, hmm, don’t go publishing it or anything, ok? But I think that it just might work well enough to help my friend’s son gain some understanding of our kids.
I guess I figure that if we’re going to ask the rest of the world to educate their children about ours, the least we can do is to give them the tools to do so.
Hopefully you’ll find it useful too.
I have a lot of friends at my school. I like to play
different things with different friends.
Some of my friends like to play trains.
Some of my friends like to play soccer.
Some of my friends like to play Caribou.
It is fun playing different games
with different friends.
Everyone has things that they are good at.
Some of my friends can run fast.
Some can swing really high on the swings.
Some of my friends can use toys
to tell great stories.
Everyone needs help learning
how to do something.
Maybe they need help knowing
how to hold a pencil.
Maybe they need help
learning how to pump on the swing.
Some kids are learning how to use
different toys in different ways
and that is OK.
I can help my friends
know how to use toys that I am good at
and they can help me learn about new toys.
I can get a teacher and ask for help
if I am not sure how to play
with a friend.
There are lots of people that do things
differently from me.
They might look different from me too
and that is OK.
Some people need help walking
so they use a walker or a wheelchair.
Some of them have allergies
and need help making sure they
eat things that are safe for them.
Some people may use their
bodies in different ways.
Maybe they like to play with their hands
and maybe they like to move their fingers
near their face
or jump up and down
when they are excited.
It is OK for people to use their bodies
in ways that are different from me.
Everyone is afraid of different things.
Some people are afraid of spiders.
Some people are afraid of loud noises.
It is OK to be afraid of things.
If I see a friend who is afraid
of something, I can help them feel safe
by telling them it is OK,
or I can get a teacher to help them.
Everyone comes to school to learn.
We are learning how to
read, how to write, how to be a good friend,
how to do math
and lots and lots of other things.
Some kids need a little more help
in learning new things.
For some kids, it’s hard to sit still
because their body feels like it
wants to move.
For some kids, it’s hard to hold a pencil
because their fingers want to move a different way.
Maybe it’s hard for some kids to play a game
because they don’t understand the rules
or they don’t know what to do with the toys.
For some kids,
it’s hard for them to talk to friends
because they don’t know what to say,
or maybe they get scared or shy.
Maybe they might say silly words
that don’t make sense,
or use a silly voice to try and play with me.
If a friend comes to me
and says or does something silly,
maybe they want to play with me.
I can ask them if they want to play
by using my words
or giving them a toy
or taking their hand
and helping them play the game.
If I see a friend who looks sad or is alone
I can ask them to play with me.
That’s a nice thing to do.
Maybe we can run or climb the slide
or go to the swings.
It will make me feel good
to help include my friend in the fun.
If I don’t know what to do,
I can get a teacher to help me play with a friend.
Everyone talks differently.
Some kids talk just like I do,
and some may sound different.
Maybe their family speaks a
Or maybe they might use their words
in different ways
that might sound silly to me.
Maybe I sound silly to them sometimes.
Sometimes my friends
may not always understand what I am saying.
Sometimes I may not understand
what they are saying.
We can help each other understand.
If I’m not sure how to play with a friend,
I can ask a teacher for some help.
The teachers can always help me talk to friends.
Sometimes kids say things that are mean
or not true about how someone looks talks or acts.
Maybe they might call them names
that will hurt their feelings.
That is called teasing and
it is very hurtful.
I would be very sad if someone teased me
and said things that were mean or not true.
I would never, ever say things that are mean
or tease the other children at school.
If I hear my friends teasing or being mean
to another friend, I can tell them to stop.
If they don’t listen to my words,
I can get a teacher for help.
My Mom and Dad and teachers
will be so proud of me
when they see what a good friend I am.
Hooray for me!