Learning is Lifelong. For Everyone.

At 22, Tommy continues to be in a burst of language development. His language gains have always, always been supported by the written word, and his daily, extensive facebook chats with friends are a rich source of learning.

Even as I type, I overhear Tommy asking Peter “What does fur coat mean?” To which Peter replies “A coat made of fur” and Tommy replies “A coat made of fur.” Confirming he is taking it all in. I remember the moment he first asked “What does ____ mean?” Unlike Tommy, whose memory of dates is impeccable, I can’t tell you right now the exact date he first asked us that question. But I do recall clearly how life changing it was. It was a turning point, filled with hope and excitement!

So, earlier today, something happened. These things happen almost daily, but I chose to share this one with all of you. It went like this:

Tommy said to me “I was thinking of….”

Which is how he has begun many, many sentences for a really long time now. But then, he paused. And started his sentence again, with a new phrase I have never heard him use, ever. He said “That reminds me of…”

Honestly, to some people this might seem small, even insignificant. But to me, each and every single moment this kind of thing happens feels like a small miracle.

And so Tommy’s language moves forward, inch by inch, towards greater happiness on his part, because his desire to share, communicate, and connect is great. And as his communication skills improve, his ease with the social world changes as well.

Learning is lifelong. My greatest joy is hearing from the many, many families who find hope in Tommy’s story. And from everyone who finds inspiration in Tommy’s perserverance and successes, despite his challenges.

Perhaps today you are feeling like things are just too hard. In this world, that is understandable. Life is overwhelming. But one step at a time, day by day, you will make the gains you need to be successful. You really will.

Thanks to each and every person who has supported Tommy. And to each of you who need support, please know that inside of you is the courage you need to move forward, inch by inch, step by step, to thrive and find joy!

Special Mouse Podcast Interview

Tommy was interviewed by Kathleen Kelly of specialmouse.com

Here is the podcast of the interview!

Autism Means Friendship with Tommy Des Brisay! 031

Posted by  on March 30, 2014

Podcast: Play in new window

Elite Paralympic Athlete and YouTube sensation, Tommy Des Brisay (and his mom) join Kathy to kick off Autism Awareness Month on the Special Mouse podcast. We discuss Tommy’s autism and his lifelong love of Disney, his service dog, Adele, and his Disney’s Frozen meet ‘n greet video that got over one million views on YouTube!

Tommy with Anna and Elsa

Tommy is an accomplished athlete with Autism from Ottawa, Canada. He has an Autism Assistance Dog guide, Adel. He trains with the Ottawa Lions. Tommy’s Personal Bests are: 1500m 4:23 3000m 9:21 5k- 16:32 10k- 33:54 Half Marathon 1:14:56. A T-20 (Intellectual Disability) Para-Athlete, he’s training towards competing at the Paralympic and World level. Tommy’s also a Nordic skier, kayaker, rock climber, sailor, horserider, swimmer, canoeist and mountain biker. He loves Disney, YouTube, and Facebook. Tommy could read/type words before he began to speak at about age seven. The subtitles of Disney movies helped him develop language. Tommy inspires through his determination and enthusiasm! The YouTube channel lookyus educates about Autism and allows viewers to appreciate all that a person with Autism has to share with others.

Here are the two videos mentioned during the podcast:

“Frozen” Characters Anna & Elsa meet Tommy in Norway
Olaf “In Summer” Parody: The First Fastest Runner

Thanks, Kathleen, for a great interview and story :)!

April Fool’s, Tommy style.

At 22, after a lifetime of really not getting the whole concept of misleading statements, for the sake of teasing, humour or April Fools gags, a breakthrough happened today! Tommy was suddenly on board with April Fool’s Day!

He spent much of the day making false, misleading statements of a harmless, trivial nature, and, once we reacted, then saying “April Fool’s!” And, when we teased with false statements, he got it, and replied with “April Fool’s” too!

Just to give you an idea of some of Tommy’s jokes, here you go:

Example #1:
Tommy: Look! (opening cupboard) Apple cookies!
Us: Where?
Tommy: April Fool’s!!!

Example #2:
Tommy: I cooked up some steaks for lunch today!
Us: Really?
Tommy: April Fools!

Example #3:
I slept in too late today!
Us: Really?
Tommy: April Fool’s!

Example #4:
Tommy: I just want my old classmate Neil Atkins from Ottawa Technical Secondary School to start running and running and running and running and running and running and running and running today!
Us: You do?
Tommy: Yes.
Us: OK
Tommy: He eats so many pieces of pumpkin pie after running today!
Us: He does?
Tommy: Yes. I just want Neil Atkins to get his cake, pie, and dill pickles and ice cream made from wheat, barley and rye flour called gluten, and cow’s milk, after running and so many pieces of pumpkin pie at midnight.
Us: Really?
Tommy: April Fools!!!!

Ok, just to be clear, Tommy came along while I typed this, read what I had so far, and dictated that last one to me 

Short on April Fool’s ideas? It doesn’t have to be elaborate! Any old false statement will pretty much do 

PS This reminded me of a time, a few years ago, when Tommy was accusing others of lying at times when they were being sarcastic (sarcasm involves basically saying the opposite of the truth, for humour’s sake. Hard to grasp for someone with Autism.) When I wrote him a definition of sarcasm, he was intrigued, but still couldn’t really “get it”. But he did suggest that perhaps the Autism Unit, where he went to school, could be turned into a “Sarcasm Unit”. I wondered- would that mean that everyone there would always speak only in sarcasm at all times? (sign me up.) or that it would be a place where people were taught how to be sarcastic? Questions left unanswered, to this day.