Asperger’s 101: The importance of role models

Asperger’s 101 is a series to dispel misconceptions about Asperger’s and Autism in general. I write this post with the help of my 7 year old son, Brady. I could not express these opinions without his input or approval. This is a record of our experience. 

Part of an ordinary childhood experience is wanting to fit in. It is hard to fit in when you are 7 and you have Asperger’s. Hard but not impossible.

Brady stopped playing Minecraft and embraced science more after he watched Jake’s videos. Jake decorated his bedroom to look like a science lab, so Brady asked for the same thing. Maybe that will be another post. Here he is taking baby Abby to “outer space” during her visit.

We looked online until we found other boys that love science and math, and also happen to be autistic.

Jake Barnett loves Astronomy and talks openly about his autism. Jake accepts himself and is happy. Jake is important to my son.

Jake Barnett is in his early teens. Jake is one of the first kids that Brady found that he can relate to — here is a boy that openly says “I”m autistic” and “I’m happy”.

Dr. Mad Science is another role model for Brady. His name is Jordan. He is a normal kid, surrounded by family and friends and treated with acceptance. He is autistic and he is happy.

Joey Hudy lives in Phoenix, AZ. He found a community of peers at Maker Faire and the Heat Sync Labs. He is an Aspie. He is paving the way for Brady, showing him you can be a kid and have fun!

These boys inspired Brady to lead science projects for his class at school. So far he has demonstrated two of Dr. Mad Science experiments (Lava Lamp and Milk Fireworks) for his 2nd grade class (another great science resource for us is Steve Spangler). The experiences helped Brady connect with the kids in his class.

Because of Joey, Jordan and Jake, Brady is open to tackling clubs, projects and group events. Here he is playing with a simple electronics kit. His frustration has abated and his identity as a normal kid with intense interests is emerging. Yes, he’s still autistic and still has to battle meltdowns and social challenges but the unnecessary burdens of alienation and loneliness are erased.

But most importantly, these boys keep Brady from feeling alone. He can relate to them and since he found out about them, he is a happier kid. This is not something I can do for him, this is something his community does for him. Thank you to all autistic kiddos who make and share videos online, I am so grateful to you.

Mom note: My awareness of the importance of autistic role models for children with autism is courtesy of Karla of Karla’s ASD page. I read Karla’s page every day. She is an immensely valuable resource. If you have time to read/follow her on Facebook or online, I think you will enjoy her too.

DIY: Marshmallow Cannon

I like to clip inspiring articles from the paper for my family. On my kitchen cabinet this week is boy, a marshmallow cannon and a president. What an inspiration for my boys and my students! Joey Hudy of Anthem, Arizona traveled to the White House to attend the 2nd annual White House Science Fair with his invention, a high powered marshmallow cannon. So fun!!

Joey Hudy from Anthem Arizona demonstrates his Marshmallow Cannon

I am delighted to see that Joey is a part of the Maker Faire community. If you know a young inventor, introduce them to Joey and the Maker Faire. I plan to follow Joey online via his blog, Look What Joey’s Making, he is DEFINITELY a kid after my own heart. Take a look at the video of Joey demonstrating his Marshmallow Cannon at the request of President Obama. Raw Video: Marshmallow Launch at the White House Science Fair

Joey, I am so proud of you. You are amazing. Keep up the good work. In the meantime, maybe I will bump into you at Heat Sync labs with my own inventors. If you think Joey’s cannon is a little daunting, you can try this fun marshmallow shooter on for size.

Marshmallow in shooter, brownie in mouth

DIY Marshmallow Shooter