Autism in the real world: Toasters, meet hair dryers

*Post title plays on Marcelo in the Real World, a Schneider Award winner.

The best way to become aware of something, to get an idea of what it might be like, is to ask someone who’s living it. Books and blogs are invaluable resources. There aren’t a lot of books written by autistic people (or people with autism, if you prefer), but there are some–the works of Temple Grandin or Tito Mukhopadhyay, for example. There are, however, books and blogs about parenting kids with autism.

One of my favorite blog posts is “A hair-dryer kid in a toaster-brained world” by MOM-NOS. It’s part of a series describing what happened when she visited her son Bud’s class to talk about autism; each post is an answer to a question Bud’s classmates wrote down. I encourage you to read the series. In “Hair-dryer,” the question is: “What is autism?”

Her answering metaphor is really elegant, especially for that age group: when Bud’s brain got put together, it was wired to be a hair dryer, while their brains got wired up as toasters. It still works, just in a different capacity. The whole post just makes me glad there are parents and schools like that in the world. MOM-NOS is also a contributor to Gravity Pulls You In: Perspectives on Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum, essays that are funny and frustrated and sobering by turns.

Gravity Pulls You In cover and link

“Hair-dryer” is the antidote to that scene in the library in Anything but Typical where Jason, after the librarian displays a cringe-worthy lack of empathy toward his autism, thinks if he doesn’t act like other people, they “make the assumption that you do not feel what they feel… and then they make the assumption that you do not feel at all.”

Anything but Typical cover and catalog link

It also pleasantly reminds me of Boy + Bot, a cute story of empathy between a boy and his robot friend–two different brains. When Bot powers off, the boy gives him applesauce and reads him a story; when Boy falls asleep, Bot gives him oil and reads him an instruction manual. Both can play together. The simple bright colors and large gentle faces, paired with amusing and understandable parallels, easily introduce empathy and diversity.

So–happy toasters and hair-dryers.

Boy + Bot cover and link

See also:

CLP’s Inclusive Storytime

April Is Autism Awareness Month, a list of resources

Autism Herd

About Amy

Children's librarian, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
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