Our journey in the Autism Spectrum

Posts tagged ‘brains’

Teaching Moment #2: Yep! You guessed it…

Toasters  & Hairdryers!

~But first, I must give full credit to Mom-NOS for sharing her concept and presentation  of a hairdryer kid in a toaster-brained world. Thank you so very much for sharing your brilliance! Truly!

~Also, thanks again to Caffeinated Autism Mom for her help in giving me some pared-down direction to make a presentation of my own using these ideas .

You ladies are amazing!  

Here’s Teaching Moment #1 just in case you missed that.

Now on to Toasters and Hairdryers

This time Mrs. KT started things off with the kids paring up to complete a Venn Diagram. ex:

Another exercise in how they are different and what things they might have in common. She gave them prompts: “draw your favorite food in your part of the circle”  and then “ask your partner what their favorite food is and draw that in their side of the circle”, etc.  After they had each drawn three small pictures of things that were different about them, they concentrated on the center over-lap, finding two things that they both liked. After some discussion about their diagrams it was my turn.

I started by reviewing just a little bit about what we talked about my first visit to the classroom, the book My Friend Has Autism, and the brain hats they made. I told them about how April is Autism Awareness month and about how some people might be putting blue lights on at their house to remind people about autism.  Some of them seemed to think this was pretty cool!

Then I told them it was time for pretend. We were going to pretend that our brains were made up of wires and metal and plastic which got a few giggles from them. Then I said, “Now, what if all these parts of wires and metal and plastic all got together and grew into a….toaster!?!” As I said this I reached into my bag and brought out our toaster. This got a lot of laughs.

“Hey! That’s from our kitchen!” Henry said.  Which brought on even more laughter.

“It IS from our kitchen. This very toaster made Henry’s breakfast this morning. So, what is it that toasters can do so well?”

“Make toast!” many of them said.

“Exactly! And they can make all kinds of toast. What else can they make?”

With this, many hands shot up and I got all kinds of good answers! (Yay! I was getting participation!)

“Waffles!”

“Pop Tarts!”

“Bagels!”

“Toaster Pastries!”

“Whole wheat toast!”

Excellent. Then I moved on to talk about, “Now what if MY wires and metal and plastic grew into a hairdryer?” And I reached in to my bag and brought out a hairdryer.

We talked about how even though toasters and hairdryers were made up of similar things, they were very good at different jobs.

“What if one morning Mrs. KT over-slept and because she didn’t want to be late for school she didn’t have time to eat breakfast. When she gets to the classroom, who could help Mrs. KT?”

“The toasters!”

“Right! But do you think I could also help? Don’t forget I’m a hairdryer.”

“No.” was the most common answer.

“Well, I probably could try to help Mrs. KT but it would be hard and it might take me a really long time, wouldn’t it?”

Henry’s hand shot up about this time. “I want to be a hairdryer, Mom. You be a toaster.” I’m thinking, “Dude you are SOOOOO a hairdryer!”

“Now, what happens on another day when Mrs. KT is running late and she gets to the classroom and remembers that she forgot to dry her hair?!? Who could really help her now?”

“The hairdryers!”

“Yep! But do you think all of you toasters could help dry Mrs. KT’s hair too? Maybe. But it would be hard, wouldn’t it? It would probably take a very long time! Especially since Mrs. KT has such long hair!”

Mrs. KT was nodding in complete agreement! (Side note that Mrs. KT does, in fact, have beautiful long dreadlocks that I adore!)

“So,  sometimes things are easy for us and other things we might have a hard time with that takes us longer. And that is okay, isn’t it? We’re all make up of the same kinds of things but how we are put together lets us be good at different things.”

By this point I could see that I was losing a few of the kids’ attention so it was time to hand out a coloring page that I had printed out of an awareness ribbon made of puzzle pieces that the kids could color. We put a colored picture of the Autism Awareness Ribbon up on the board and we talk just a little about the ribbon and about April being Autism Awareness month and I reminded them watch for houses with blue lights. And then it was time for me to go. Whew!

[This time I give myself a B. I felt much more comfortable with the kids and I had a good time. It made me feel good that I had gotten such good participation and that the kids really did seem interested! I can only hope that some of this information is sinking in! I will be forever grateful to Mrs. KT for giving me this opportunity!]

Teaching Moment: #1 Friends and Brains

I’ve written both here and on my Facebook page about how Henry’s Kindergarten teacher asked me to come into the classroom to talk to the kids a little bit about autism. Yesterday afternoon I had my first visit.

All the children were on the rug and I explained to them that I was there to talk about autism. I asked if anyone had heard that word before and if they knew what it was. I got some “yes” and some “no”.  I asked if anyone had a question before I read a book to them about autism.

My son’s hand shot up.  In my head I’m thinking, “really, dude?

“Yes, Henry. What is your question?”

“I hate G*!”

Of all the kids to be outspoken about not liking kids with differences, it’s MY kid, you know, the one WITH autism, that probably needs the most help in understanding the feelings of others. Which is exactly why we thought it important to have him there in class for my visits. Clearly, we’ve got a lot of work to do with my son. Henry’s teacher quickly diffused the situation by explaining that it is not okay to say things like that and that those words hurt. We then segued into explaining that the story I was going to share not only was about autism but about having a friend that was different.

With 17 pairs of 5 and 6 year-old eyes upon me I began by reading the book, My Friend Has Autism by Amanda Tourville.

Mrs. KT (Kindergarten Teacher) then did an exercise with them demonstrating how sometimes we liked the same things and sometimes we didn’t and that it is okay but we still need to treat each other nicely.

She began by asking a series of questions asking and motioning to the kids to either side of the rug depending on their answers. The questions got harder as she went on but here are just a sample:

“Who likes pizza best stand on this side of the rug and those who like hot dogs best stand on this other side.”

“Who likes to give and get big hugs stand here and those who don’t like to be touched stand over here.”

“Those who like to have a lot of friends come to this sides and those who prefer to have just a few friends go to this other side.”

“Those who think that we should   treat everyone nicely no matter our differences stand on this side of the rug. Those who think it’s okay not to be nice to someone because they are different stand on this other side.”

Importantly, on this last question all of the kids were standing on the “right” side! We talk about how it is important to be kind to one another even if we don’t agree with them or want to be their friend. We don’t have to be friends with everyone but we do need to be kind to everyone.

Next we moved on to talk about how different our brains are. How what we see in our brains can be very different from each other. Then the kids made “brain hats”. Each student was given a sheet of paper with an outline of a brain and they were asked to color in and draw on what they saw inside their brain. Then we attached their picture to a paper band that fit around their head to complete the “hat”.

With that it was time for me to go but Mrs. KT told the class that I would be coming back again to talk more about autism.

Some asked, “Tomorrow?”

Mrs. KT and I laughed and said, “No, not tomorrow but soon.”

[I haven’t yet had a chance to speak with Mrs. KT to get her feedback on the lesson and we haven’t set a date yet for me to come back.  Personally, I think I should have been able to do much better.  I just don’t feel I can relate to kids all that well, especially those that are not my own. They intimidate the heck out of me. But, since Mrs. KT did tell them I would be coming back I guess I did well enough. I’d give myself a C. Usually the more I DO something, the better I get. I’m hoping that is the case here because I’ve been given a WONDERFUL opportunity here and I sure do want to make the most of it!]

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