aut viam inveniam aut faciam

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” 

- Mario Andretti

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. 

So I went on a mission. I looked everywhere for appropriate books or materials, but I came up dry. There’s a lot out there, but I found most of it to be either too abstract, too specific or not even remotely age appropriate. Incidentally, if you have kids over six, this book is FANTASTIC (and half the profits go to Autism Speaks! Woo Hoo!) But I just couldn’t find anything for the five and under set.
.
So I did my best to create something. Aut viam inveniam aut faciam – I will find a way or I will create one. Giddy up.

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  

different language. 

 

 

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! 

  

  

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31 thoughts on “aut viam inveniam aut faciam

  1. no bigger than my shoulder pads and don’t you DARE say anything about my electric blue eye liner or the ‘frosted brownie’ lipstick that was the mainstay of my last two years in high school! ** shudder **

  2. You did such a great job! This is SO necessary! I like to do the Understanding Our Differences program but children don’t become aware of these differences only starting in 3rd grade. If we support inclusion in K-12, we will need resources like your book to help make inclusion a positive experience for all our kids starting in kindergarten! I would love to make this available everywhere.

    Thank you!

  3. This is really, really awesome. Thanks for taking the time. Have you seen the Tobin books? (Tobin Learns to Make Friends & Friends Learn About Tobin by Diane Murrell – check Amazon) They’re definitely more abstract, but they seemed to help Reilly understand some things about Foster. And since they’re both train guys, they were a perfect fit for us. I also love “All Cats Have Asperger’s.”

  4. You really have no clue just how awesome you are! I think you should publlish it. Now to print it out and try to use it on my 3 1/2 year old nephew who told me Aunt Jenny Cousin Doesn’t have
    autism he just speaks spanish!

  5. Your book is excellent! I did a similar one for my son Nigel for his early elementary school years. His teacher and the school library wanted copies to have there for the kids to read, and those that did are still very accepting of him, even in 8th grade.

  6. You are ALL that – and a bag of chips.

    Jess. How do you do it?? Huh? I mean, honestly? I thought I was bad ass – but you are the bad-addest.

    This is lovely for children, but to be honest? It made me slow down (the scrolling) and realize how hard it is for our kids to go to school. And maybe rethink autism again. And how *close* we all are anyway – your book describes half of my typical high school students!

    Bravissimi!

  7. Wow, if all the world could see our kids this way…what a wonderful, warm, safe world it would be!! Here is hoping this can be publised across the country! I know I’d love for the other children to see this before my boys start kindergarten next year…let us know how we can make this happen.

  8. Inclusion for K-12?! I just enrolled my son (a typcially developing two-year-old) in a program called Two By Two. Four children with special needs/developemental delays (including autism) are paried with four typically developing children and three teachers, one morning or afternoon a week. Yeah, in some places it’s starting that early (just as it should). Today was our first day and it totally rocked. Wheehoo. And HOO-RAY for the amazing women who are teaching two-year-olds about tolerance, difference, and empathy.

  9. So we printed and staple-bound the book to present to our 5 and 7 year olds. We’ve read it through several times together – most of the questions and comments interestingly are about themselves and their own differences; Adian with his allergies and Linden with his slow reading (which is his way of searching for something). What was nice is they really didn’t notice differences in others – whether it be social, ethnic or physical. I don’t know if it is their ages or they are growing-up in a world where people are just people regardless of how they are. Thanks for taking the time in putting the book together – I’d be happy to pass it along.

  10. I love your book, I have a 6 year old daughter Sophie, that experiences a developmental disabilty. Could I use your book for her class?

    Thanks so much!
    Heather in Oregon

  11. Jess, In grad school, one of my projects was to write a children’s book to teach kids about differences. It was very similar to yours, but yours really NAILED it! Also, when I went back to visit the boys I used to nanny for in Wellesley after starting this job, I spent quite a bit of time trying to explain Autism to them (they were 5 and 7). It was quite a challenge, but I think they learned something and it was a neat experience! xoxo

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