We need to build a motorway (explaining the brain to Sproglet)

Let me start this post by clearly pointing out that I am not a neuroscientist or specialist and there are a million professionals (well possibly not that many but you get my drift) who have written countless books on the subject.

I am not going to even attempt to use all the official terms and descriptions that I have learned from the many different books, resources and training as my reason for writing this is to show how we have finally found a way to explain it to Sproglet in a way that he understands.

We have recently received a learning difficulty diagnosis after a long time of pushing for an assessment and although we may need to be able to push for a fuller diagnosis in the coming months, we have been working hard to find a simple way to explain to Sproglet why certain things in his brain do not seem to process information the same way that other people do.

We used the ideas of the corpus callosum area of his brain being a bridge between the left and right sides of his brain. We told him that the left side usually deals with speech, comprehension, arithmetic, and writing. The right side usually deals with creativity, spatial ability, artistic, and musical skills. We then explained that the damage caused to his brain as a likely result of alcohol and drug exposure during pregnancy means that the messages have to cross a really old, wobbly, unsafe rope bridge to get from left to right. This means that sometimes the messages just fall off the sides as that type of bridge are usually quite open or can take a lot longer to get across because they have to go really slowly to stay safe.

The good news to all this, is that with enough repetition and practice he will be able to construct a more stable and solid motorway bridge between the left and right side which provides a better way for some of his thoughts to cross over. However, this can also be scary as the traffic looks like it’s moving so much faster and there is more going on. We tried to explain that some new experiences will automatically use the motorway bridge and he will find himself being able to do them well right from the start. Some of his older skills will need to be persuaded to use the new motorway bridge but whenever they are under pressure, feel scared, unwell or angry they are still likely to return to their default and try to cross over on the old wobbly rope bridge. The downside is that some skills will never be prepared to risk trying the new motorway bridge and will forever depend on the wobbly old rope bridge which means they are going to remain tricky or challenging throughout his whole life.

I realise that with the lifelong challenges we are now having to adapt to, we will need to retell this story to him many times. It is also likely to require some revision as he is more able to understand some of the unique challenges that this unseen disability will now cause him throughout his life.

The determined attitude we as parents have had throughout the 7 years we have been honoured to be his parents will remain and although this brain injury is through no fault of his own, he will not be allowed to live the life of a victim. We celebrate success of every scale and level in our family and even if they are only small milestones or great giant leaps, we will continue to celebrate them.

We still truly believe that Sproglet has a great future ahead of him and although he will always need a level of support in some of the everyday handling of money and some social situations he can function and is learning some independent skills which sets him up for his teenage years.

2 thoughts on “We need to build a motorway (explaining the brain to Sproglet)

  1. Great, simple explanation. I often find it hard to simplify the sceince for little ones. Thank you. x Many thanksLydia 

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    1. Thanks for the feedback. We found it a great way to explain FASD stuff to him and the imagery was really easy for him to grasp & engage with especially as pictures are so easy to find to illustrate the message we’re communicating. We’ve used other ideas to explain anger in the brain as well so maybe I’ll write that up as a post soon. You’re doing great work with your little ones & we’re always grateful to families who love and look after our children while us adopters wait for the match!

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