Mr. Potato Head

potato3

Mr. Potato Head is the toy I hate the most.

Never mind his ugly bulbous face and his stupid smirk. I have much deeper reason for my detestation of Mr. Potato Head.

Mr. Potato Head told me my son was autistic.

The way Toby played with Mr. Potato Head was non-functional. From a very young age, he would stim with the individual pieces. He’d wave them around while humming in monotone, and not put them into the face at all, let alone the right slots. Before his diagnosis, I didn’t know what he was doing. I thought he had some really interesting scenarios going on inside his head. I didn’t know he was getting lost in his own mind.

When we began to be concerned about Toby’s development, one of the doctors we saw asked me, “How does he play with toys?”

I thought of Mr. Potato Head.

The doctor frowned when I told her, and mentioned the word “autism” in relation to my son for the first time. When we finally got in to see a specialist, Mr. Potato Head came up again. Another tally against Toby. The final thing that put us over the cliff where we landed in a big fat pile of autism information packets.

Still, I tried not to hold it against Mr. Potato Head. After all, it wasn’t personal. We kept him. For over a year after Toby’s diagnosis I kept him, trying and hoping that he would learn to play with him appropriately. I wanted victory over his vegetable face. But one day, I snapped.

I gathered up all of those staring eyes, seriously rude stuck-out tongues, oval noses and black bowler hats. And I put them in a plastic bag and sent them to Goodwill.

Why should I keep such a painful reminder in my home when it only breaks my heart all over again, every time I see Toby playing with him the same way he always has? The habit to stim with those toys was a very, very powerful habit. Even though I was trying to help him overcome that pattern, I decided it just wasn’t worth it. There are plenty of small-scale toys in this world that I can use to teach Toby to play with, instead of stim with. I just couldn’t look at those dumb potato parts that told the world my son was different anymore. And you know what?

Nobody misses him. Not at all.

*****************************************************************************

UPDATE: Toby’s daily notes from school

potatohate

Literally, in your face Mr. Potato Head.

I still hate you.

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4 thoughts on “Mr. Potato Head

  1. This was such an open and honest account. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Children are a blessing from our Holy Father, no matter “which pieces go missing”. Love overcomes all and a mother’s love; The Greatest, will recognize progress as time goes on.

  2. Wow I knew how difficulty is being but at the same time look how much Toby being progress.. Am being thinking he is not the only want being learning. We all being learning from him. I believe he is very intelligent and he will go fine in life in life. He is very bless have some incredible parents, who they are willing to do anything for him and for his welfare. Am happy for the Potato story because you can evaluate the frustration, Toby Progress and our. I love how you share the feeling and the happy end. About no more potato head and how come back to Toby life and the new results. I love it!

  3. You should keep him… my daughter has autism and she did exactly the same for years but we got there … she master playing with it and I felt so happy even when she used a tongue as a hat :@

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