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January 10, 2024 | By Tabitha Orth, IAES Co-Founder and President

Our son, Matthew is watching Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer tonight. It triggered the memory of a wise, insightful observation he had given me several years ago when I was recovering from a brain injury caused by autoimmune encephalitis.

My executive functions had taken a long vacay. They were MIA.  I rarely did something right. My memory took the hardest hit, especially my short-term memory. I needed a lot of help. That said, I was still “ME”. I was just – making a lot of mistakes. Matthew put his arm around me and tucked me into his side. This is a rare action of giving comfort for Matthew which made its impact more deeply felt. He said, “Mom, you are just like one of the toys on the Island of the Misfit Toys.” Love, acceptance, compassion, and comfort washed over me at the beauty of his words. Reassuring me that although I am a ‘broken’ Mom, I am deeply loved and he will always accept, support, and help me.

Those of you who know my son, know how engaging, honest, and forthright a man he is. You also know how much his autism impacts his life. A visual learner, Matthew has learned language from movies and cartoons. Social graces and social norms on all sides of the spectrum are gleamed through family film entertainment. So much of his understanding of the world, nature, history, science, and the like comes from documentaries on a wide range of topics. He saw I was ‘Mom’ and his Mom had “a brain problem” is how he described it. He told me it wasn’t my fault I “got a brain problem”.  I had been broken and his love never wavered.

Being reminded of the Island of the Misfit toys, had me searching the internet to look it up. I came across this article, We Are All on the Island of Misfit Toys, and it transfixed me. Yes. The author has this right.

The Island of the Misfit Toys Is a scene from the Christmas classic Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. If you don’t remember the story, the Island of Misfit Toys is where we find a Jack-in-the-Box named Charlie, a spotted toy elephant, a water pistol that shoots jelly, and all of the other weird toys that nobody wants to play with. The ruler of the Island–a kindly flying lion named King Moonracer is like Santa Claus in reverse–every night except Christmas, he goes all over the world looking for weird and unloved toys. Then he brings them back to the island where they form a community of the unlovely, unloved, and un-played-with. Eventually, the Moonracer promises them, he will find a little boy or girl who wants nothing more than a Jack-in-the-Box named Charlie.

As the article below explains, the inhabitants of the Island of the Misfit toys are splotchity. Synonyms for “splotchity” might include “irregular,” “unpredictable,” “uneven,” or even “messy.” But none of these work as well as “splotchity.” 

The author goes on to explain that the opposite of splotchiness is uniformity: factory-produced items that all look alike, tract homes in a new subdivision, things that are perfect, uniform, balanced, symmetrical, and even. Such uniformity does not occur in nature; it is the product of human enterprise. Human beings equate beauty with uniformity and go to great lengths to eliminate splotchitiness.

If God stamps each person with a uniqueness that signals his love, then those who believe in a higher power have a responsibility, not merely to tolerate what makes people unique, but to glory in its divinity. We are unique, and therefore splotchity, in many different ways, all of them divine. We are all misfit toys—because that is what beautiful looks like to God.


The term executive function (EF) is an “umbrella term” which encompasses a range of cognitive, emotional and behavioural difficulties which often occur after injury to the frontal lobes of the brain. Impairment of executive functions is common after brain injury and has a profound effect on many aspects of everyday life. Planning, problem-solving, self-monitoring, organization, divided attention, shifting or mental flexibility, and initiation of behaviors are often included under the term executive functions.

Attention and working memory are also sometimes listed as executive functions. The development of executive functions (EFs) is considered to be important because they are necessary for purposeful, planned, organized behaviors such as goal setting and attainment. Most of us take these abilities for granted and we effortlessly perform extremely complex tasks all the time in our everyday lives. Brain injury, Brain damage or active autoimmune encephalitis are all reasons that an individual may have difficulty with executive functions.

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Tabitha Orth 300x218 - The Island of Misfit ToysOn June 16 th, 2022, Tabitha Orth, President and Founder of International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society officially became the 7,315 th “point of light”. Recognized for the volunteer work she and IAES has done to spark change and improve the world for those touched by Autoimmune Encephalitis. The award was founded by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.




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Our website is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice. Nothing contained on our website is intended to be used as medical advice. No content is intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice. Although THE INTERNATIONAL AUTOIMMUNE ENCEPHALITIS SOCIETY  provides a great deal of information about AUTOIMMUNE ENCEPHALITIS, all content is provided for informational purposes only. The International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society  cannot provide medical advice.

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society is a charitable non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2016 by Tabitha Andrews Orth, Gene Desotell and Anji Hogan-Fesler. Tax ID# 81-3752344. Donations raised directly supports research, patients, families and caregivers impacted by autoimmune encephalitis and to educating healthcare communities around the world. Financial statement will be made available upon request.

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