Comprehension and learning life’s lessons

In my Uncle B’s eulogy, the story was told of a discussion that Uncle B had with a fellow cancer patient in hospital. This other patient, who was a millionaire, said that he hoped to become a billionaire before he died. Uncle B said to him that his wealth was his faith, his wife and his beautiful family.

I was gobsmacked that anyone could want more money as a last achievement; surely everyone has been exposed to enough proverbs, books and movies that highlight the emptiness of money and the value of relationships. Then, I remembered reading the book ‘Herbert & Harry’ to my sons.

Herbert and Harry were brothers who found a treasure box while fishing together one day. Herbert ran off with the treasure, developed paranoia and lived alone in a fort protecting his treasure. Harry went back to his house on the top of the hill and raised a family of his own. At the end of the book, Harry can be seen in good health reading stories to his grandchildren and Herbert can be seen neither happy nor healthy keeping guard from the top of his fort.

After reading the book, I asked my eldest son Jeremy, which brother he would prefer to be and without hesitation he said Harry. I asked Damian who he would prefer to be and without hesitation he said Herbert.

Damian has always loved treasure, for a long time ‘gold’ was his favourite colour. He would collect stones from gardens and call them diamonds or gems. Damian also loves money. He gets very excited when people give him money for his birthday and he delights in putting it straight into his money-box. Once, when I explained that a friend felt bad because he wanted to give us money for something we had done for him Damian said “That will never happen to me because when I grow up I’ll be rich and people will be asking me for money!”

Damian’s teacher (Mrs L) told me recently that she was ‘blown away’ by Damian’s reading comprehension; meaning that he not only read the words well but he also understood what he was reading. Mrs L gave me a checklist of questions to ask before, during and after reading to extend his comprehension even further.

It occurred to me that with his improved reading comprehension, developed since starting school, Damian may now have a different understanding of the book about Herbert and Harry. I decided to videotape Damian reading the story (my boys love to be videotaped) and I explained that I would be asking him questions while he read it.

Mostly, I asked Damian how each character was feeling at different stages during the book and why*. It became clear to Damian that Herbert was in fact not happy at all and with that knowledge he said, without hesitation, that he would prefer to be Harry. Phew! Message imparted. I’ll be damned if I raise a ‘Mr Scrooge’.

You can watch Jeremy read ‘Herbert and Harry’ (with comprehension questions) here**.


* The featured image for this post includes the full checklist of comprehension questions.

** Jeremy’s recording was more entertaining than Damian’s because the battery ran out during Damian’s recording and he lost momentum. However, if you want to listen to Damian read the book then you can click here.

Herbert Harry plus checklist


4 thoughts on “Comprehension and learning life’s lessons

  1. You are such a great Mommy!!!!

    This post made me cry. I’m not sure exactly why. Perhaps it’s because I am a cancer survivor. Perhaps it’s because I can see my son in Damian in SO MANY ways. Perhaps it’s because your writing is so lovely.

    Nonetheless, THANK YOU for sharing this story. I have dedicated my life to educating people about Autism, as well as educating myself and my child. I love your use of a favorite book as a social story. I am profoundly impressed with your approach to this. 🙂

    • Thankyou for your heartfelt comment. I’ve just had a look at your blog and I think that it will be a great resource for me.
      It’s wonderful to know that there are so many people sharing their stories about autism, stories that broaden our perception of the world and the people in it.

      • I LOOOOOOVE our ASD community. Sometimes we get all tangled up in details, but for the most part, there is a sense of “we are in this together.” Without it I would be lost. If there is ANYTHING I could do to help out, let me know. ::hugs:: we are in this together!

      • Thanks that’s very kind of you, the feelings mutual.

        My toughest times were when my boys were babies/toddlers and it was all new. I say ‘bring it on’ now.

        I feel like I home-school my boys on coping strategies and understanding the social world (and I learn in the process) as an additional curriculum to that taught in school and I’ll think they’ll be all the better for it.

        Although there are tough times, I look on those tough times as letting me know that a new approach is needed and it usually does the trick. No-ones perfect anyway. I’m a big fan of vulnerabilities and authenticity.


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