Wanted: Communication. No Experience Required.

I’m old.  Not that old.  I mean it in a way to convey experience.  Not intelligence – experience.  There is a difference.  Intelligence can be found at any age.  Experience comes only with the passage of time.

Experience does not mean you make the right choices in life.  It simply means you’ve been subjected to many different circumstances and have reacted to them.  You have a repository of knowledge concerning the outcomes of certain circumstances.  Some are positive.  Others are not.  Confronted with a new set of circumstances, you can look back on past events and select or rule out certain actions and behaviors to increase the likelihood that you will achieve a desired result.

Most actions we take are calculated.  Someone says, “How are you?”  Should we say we are suffering from allergies and did not get any sleep or should we just say, fine?  It depends on to whom we are speaking, how long we wish the interaction to continue and whether we want to share that information.  We make these assessments rapidly enough to respond without a lull in the conversation.  We don’t literally go through each question and then respond.

When we speak of impulsive behavior, we think of a young child or a momentary lapse from a set of principles by which we normally conduct ourselves.  In any instance, an impulse is not the norm.  It is the antithesis of experience.  It is done without thinking.

Now think of children, generally.  All children are generally, impulsive.  They have not learned yet all the nuances and subtleties of social interaction with the use of questions in conversation.  This is why child may ask a question that may be offensive or hurt’s someone’s feelings.

Seconds before Mr. Impulsive knocks over the drink...

I remember, throughout my childhood, I would pester my parents constantly with “What are you doing?”  I still pester people with this question.

My son has never used these words.

Think about that.

Yes.  From children generally, we get to my child.  He is impulsive in his own way.  Much more than typical children, my son has very little understanding of social interaction.  He wants attention.  He wants to share things in which he has interest with others.  He does not understand that in order for others to have an interest in him, he must also express interest in others.

He has the most rudimentary pathway of communication carved toward expressing that understanding right now.  His way to social interaction is like an overgrown jungle of vines through which he has threaded a small needle.  As I stand in the darkness of understanding his thoughts, these words touch my ears:

“What is the girl doing?”

They fill me with delight!  I feel them through my body, straight into my heart.  I cannot explain how the simplest things tickle me pink when he does them without prompting.  These moments give me excitement and hope for progress.  They give me pure joy.

He does not ask them often.  In a moment, when I am focused on writing a post, putting on my makeup, cooking dinner, folding laundry (yes – all the exciting parts of my life) he will ask this question.  The words come, maybe, once a week or every couple of weeks.

I’m always surprised when says them.  Why?  Because it is so rare.  Most of my days with him are filled with scripting.  Echolalia.  Repeating the same 10-20 sentences, most of which involve scripting with a few words changed to interject his latest obsession.  Even though he may be wondering things about the world passing by around him, unless he says them out loud, I really don’t know what goes on in his mind.

It is true gold when he utters these special words of communication – socially interactive communication.  Using words that express something beyond his own personal wants and needs.  Getting outside his ego.

The most basic of all social interaction comes from this.  He learned the question, “What is the girl doing?” during an ABA program which got him to look at books and describe the pictures with full sentences.  Taking the words he was originally asked by his therapists, he has come to use them when he is curious about real life in place of “What are you doing?”  because of his difficulty with the use of pronouns.

It’s funny to think how the most mundane of questions can help mold and shape each future communicative interaction.  Each exchange, no matter how small, can frame the next.  Like building blocks, he will gain experience in verbal exchange.  Someday, much more slowly than his peers, he will use the words to convey the exchanges that will shape him into the man he will become.

So, what is the girl doing?

How beautiful it is to recognize the process as it happens.

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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11 Responses to Wanted: Communication. No Experience Required.

  1. Great post, Karen. It really says so much in that one simple question!

    Now that you mention it, I do not think I have ever heard Little Miss ask, “what are you doing?” We are getting better… as she discovered her Easter eggs, we got a lot of “what in there?” but hmmm…. “what are you doing?” that’s one I need to listen for!

    And I LOVE LOVE LOVE the caption on the first picture. I expect laugh-out-loud moments when I read Big Daddy’s posts, but you totally snuck that one in on me. Thank you for the morning giggle!

  2. autismangel says:

    Love this post Karen!!

  3. Brian says:

    Perfect. I know it’s hard, but we have the privilage of seeing things happen slowly. Wait, that’s not a privilage. And I spelled privilage wrong three times already. But he’s worked really hard, so that’s great to see results.

  4. solodialogue says:

    It’s a “privilage” that you read and commented. 😉 I know what you mean though. He is trying very hard. Thanks, Brian!

  5. He’ll get there. More than that, he is getting there. He is doing great, you too mama!

  6. Big Daddy says:

    The things we find so simple and natural about communication and social interaction come so hard to them. At 13, my son still struggles mightily with this.

    Btw, that last pic is off the charts adorable!

  7. eof737 says:

    Another great thing is that your journal will become a wonderful record for him and for you later in life. You are both doing fine and we are learning along with you two. 🙂
    Eliz

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