How do you explain to your then 6 year old, what Aspergers is, what it means for him and why he is different to other children - all while being very positive about it all and keeping it simple enough for a young child?
For us, it was relating it to something tangible, something that he loved, something that was fun. Something simple. So we went with Pizza. *It will make sense I promise*
I started with "Your Brain is a Pizza". Everyone's brain is a pizza.
When you order a pizza and you open the box, you will either get a Pizza that has been sliced evenly, or one that is a mixture of bigger slices and smaller slices. Most times, you get an evenly sliced one. Lets call that a regular brain. It's what most people have. It's all even and everything divided up as it should be. I told my son that he and I have the random, uneven, mixed up pizza brain. It's an Aspergers brain. It's not wrong, just different.
So how does having a differently sliced pizza brain explain Aspergers?
Well I then explained: Imagine that all the functions a brain is supposed to do, is in sections and each slice represents each section of the brain. One for Intelligence, one for being good at sports, one for making friends and being social, one for our senses, one for emotions etc. Everything you are supposed to have, learn and be able to do for each of those areas, is on a well proportioned slice. There is room for each element. All the toppings are evenly spaced. It means they can do all of these functions easily. One is not overtaking another.
So imagine if all those same functions have to be spread on an uneven pizza. For Aspergers brains, the LARGE slices get things like Intelligence, Senses, Emotions. The small slices get being social/making friends, being coordinated/good at sports, etc. What does that mean? It means that on the big slices, we have lots more of those things. Imagine LOTS of toppings, overlapping each other or spread far apart as the slices are so big. We can have a lot of intelligence and can mean our brain works overtime ALL the time, constantly thinking as there is SO much room to fill up! It means we have super emotions, lots of them, often many at a time and they can be hard to control, they are so powerful and they have lots of room to run around and get even more emotional. It means our senses can be huge too. Too sensitive or not sensitive enough (as there is too much room for it to spread out and chill out). On the small slices it can mean there is not enough room to fit all the elements we need. So we find it hard to make friends, hard to ride a bike or even hold a pencil. We couldn't fit all the information we needed onto those small slices. All that topping is over on the big slices and sitting in the intelligence slice.
That might sound bad, it will sound hard, it might even sound not fair.
All it means is that we think differently. When we think, it's using the larger intelligence part of our brain to learn how to grow the smaller parts and use them better. We still have the same sized pizza after all. We just have to learn how to use it the best way we can. The intelligence slice has to take control a little, be the leader and help train the smaller slices. He can use his intelligence to learn what to do and how to do it.
Most people think a regular pizza is the best. Maybe it is. For some. But I like uneven pizza's. The giant slices are awesome! They have lots more topping and are like a bonus. The small slices are good too, they don't make you feel as full. It's all about how you look at it.
My son LOVED this analogy. He got it straight away. All the things he found hard to do, he knew were on small slices, all the things he found hard to control and had lots of, were on big slices. But what he took from all of it, was that he had a super slice for intelligence. It made everything ok for him. He saw it as a very cool way to be. That in the long run, he'd learn everything he needed for the small slices so he wasn't going to miss out.
We love our Pizza Brains LOL
And for months he proceeded to tell anyone who would listen, that he had a Super Aspergers Brain - with a super smart pizza slice!