As you may know, there’s a flashblog happening today called This is Autism, in response to Suzanne Wright’s recent repeated use of the phrase in last week’s Autism Speaks to Washington: A Call to Action. The request for submissions reads as follows:
Tell us what “This is Autism” means to you. You can write a paragraph or a blog post, contribute a poem or a video, make a comic or a graphic. Use your imagination. Let’s tell the world what autism is in the words and works of autistic people and those who love and support them.
I was asked by the organizers of the flashblog for permission to use my recent post, and I happily agreed. And then I went on my merry way.
And then, just after dropping Brooke off at school, I read THIS. And holy crap on toast people, I could barely wait to pick her up again. Because … YES .. THAT!
Please take a moment to follow the link and read the post. I won’t go anywhere. I promise.
Okay, so now you get it, right?
Emma wrote, “Autism is a method of energy.”
I mean, right?
My wheels were turning.
Until recently, I would have been convinced that Brooke was not ready to participate in something like this on her own.
But guys, Emma wrote that post using a letter board and a pencil.
And my God, what she wrote.
We could figure this out.
It wasn’t a matter of “when” or “if,” it was just a matter of “how.”
After school, Brooke took some much-needed down time. It may or may not have included Dora the Explorer and a stack of Chips Ahoy, but you didn’t hear that from me.
And then I handed her Luau’s phone. And, sitting right next to her on the couch, I explained that I was going to ask her a few questions. That’s what I did. The conversation is long. And meandering. And contains a LOT of scripting. But I’m not going to edit it all because I think it’s important. I think the fact that there are very real answers to some really deep questions RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SCRIPTS matters. So here goes.
Me: I’m going to ask you a couple of questions, k?
Brooke: Ok, Jessica
*fits of laughter*
Me: Oh dear. Try again, giggle monkey.
Brooke: Ok Meema
Me: Ok, here goes. What is Autism?
Brooke: Me an you
Me: What does Autism feel like?
Brooke: What we have. Now I will ask you questions.
Me: Ok! You ask me one and then I’ll ask you another, k?
Brooke: When I googled a Joe’s Clues video what comment did Barby say?
Me: Oh man. That was schruvey*!
*Brooke’s word for “not okay.”
Me: Ok, my turn. Is Autism a good thing, a not-so-good thing, or just a thing?
Brooke: Did you take it away?
Me: I closed the video down, yes.
Brooke: Pee and poop
Me: Yuck! It’s your turn to answer my question. Is Autism a good thing, a not-so-good thing, or just a thing?
Brooke: Did the comment say Go die in a hole Joe I hate you?
Me: Yes it did. And that wasn’t okay. I answered your question, can you answer mine? Is Autism a good thing, a not-so-good thing, or just a thing?
Brooke: It’s all right not all wrong.
Me: I like that answer a lot. May I ask you another question or do you want to ask me one first?
Brooke: Bye Jessica. I have to go now
Me: Not yet, silly! If you had to tell someone who was new in class* what Autism is, what would you tell them?
*A favorite script is welcoming a new student to class, so I thought this would be a good way to frame a question
Brooke: I saw Gymbo. Don’t that the hat off just leave the hat on.
Me: Hmmm. I don’t think that would help the new student know what Autism is. Can you tell me how we should explain Autism to the new student?
Me: Is it something you wear like a hat?
Brooke: It means what you always have when you are strong like a sissy.
Me: What do you mean like a sissy?
Brooke: It is what BJ calls Baby Bop*.
*characters from Barney
Me: Oh! Because Baby Bop is his sister?
Me: That’s awesome.
Brooke: It means good
Me: So it means what you always have when you are strong like a dinosaur?
Me: Thank you for explaining that to me! I was confused about the sissy part. I have two more questions, ok? If the new student asked you if you like being autistic what would you say?
Brooke: I don’t know Jessica
Me: Try again, Missy.
Brooke: Not sure Moooma.
Me: Well, here’s what I want you to remember, okay? You are awesome. Autism is a part of you. Therefore Autism must be part of what makes you so awesome. Promise me you’ll remember that?
Brooke: *sends me a photo of her pretending to eat her foot* and laughs herself silly.
We call it a day.
When I asked if I could share this conversation she said, “Yes, You would do that.”
So, to be clear …
To Brooke, Autism is all right, not all wrong. It means what you always have when you are strong like a dinosaur. It means good.
To her Mama, it is part of what makes her awesome.
Flashblog entry complete.
Infinite gratitude to Ariane and Emma for inspiring us to find a way for my girl to contribute her voice to this conversation. This is … everything.