11.26.2012

The Cool Thing About Autism


I have a child with High Functioning Autism. He won't laugh if he doesn't think something is funny, even if everyone else is laughing. There are times I explain things to him so he doesn't feel left out or confused, but he will not pretend. That's the cool thing about Autism. Although social norms the rest of us mostly pick up without training or therapies do not come natural to him, he is completely genuine. I enjoy it and find that refreshing.

Since understanding more about what he is learning to do with his Speech Pathologist, I have come to watch social interactions more closely. Often people will engage in conversation and a lot of acting is going on. I do it and I see other people do it. We are so concerned with other peoples' feelings we often pretend to care or be interested in what other says when, in fact, if we are completely honest with ourselves, it might be a terribly boring conversation. But! Because many of us have naturally developed empathy, the people we socialize with in our lives play the same game of pretending and acting. The more I care about a person, the greater genuine interest I may have in what they say. There are also times we are just being a good friend. Do my friends really care about my new vase? Probably not. But they care about me, so they may play along.

Take a week to consider the conversations you participate in. Tally up your own rating scale of how interesting they are. You may find a different ending, but you may also begin to notice a lot of the social ego stroking we do for the sake of kindness.

My son is basically taking social acting lessons. He is learning to play games where to learns to take turns responding and initiating conversations about various topics. He would prefer to only discuss things he is interested in and ignore any other topic another brings up, even with people he cares deeply about. It's the way he is wired. The way he operates actually makes more sense and is true to his own nature. He isn't trying to be rude when he doesn't ask you questions about your vacation. He just truly isn't curious about it and doesn't have a sense of wonder about a trip someone else took that has no relation to him. He is, however, learning because that's how we make friends and keep them. That's how our social world spins and he does want to be part of it. Often you will hear him respond with 'okay' after you say something to him. He learned this in speech as a way to acknowledge to the speaker that he heard them. He used to say nothing. He is working on expanding 'okay' to a comment or question in addition to eye contact.

He is working hard and implementing a lot of learned skills I take for granted and never stop to think about. I am amazed at how far he has come in the past few years. He has become so much more a part of the family's world instead of his own. A lot of that is because of the therapy he receives in addition to our family knowledge gained and understanding of how his mind operates.

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