Let autism be the path to understanding your childSep 20, 2020
Tosh is with his dad this weekend, which gives me the liberty to do whatever I want. This morning, I was indulging in one of my favorite activities: brainstorming.
My brainstorming isn't just ideas; each idea includes a complete content strategy, and I'm able to write persuasive essays, feature articles, white papers, video scripts, social media posts and more in my head, down to the word. Sometimes it includes design, too. It's awesome. I am so thankful and in awe that what I do for a living comes easily. (Because the rest of life, not so much. lol)
This language ability comes with a catch: I have to keep my feet moving. I struggle to create language unless I'm pacing, walking, hiking or running.
Early this morning I was pacing together this week's bundle of multimedia curriculum for my nonverbal autism homeschool group. I was writing an encouraging email in my head and realized unless I sat down and wrote out what I had so far, I would probably forget it.
But of course, if I sat down, the words wouldn't flow as easily.
"If only I could just say it out loud as I think it, and use speech-to-text technology to write as I go," I thought to myself, "But I don't like to say my words."
I don't like to say my words?
That sentence came out of nowhere and stopped me in my tracks.
I already know that I prefer writing over speaking because words don't come out of my mouth easily. Not the first draft. I can make videos all day long talking about topics I've already mastered, but improvisation? AKA real life?
That's unpredictable, to put it kindly. Sometimes my spoken words are appropriate, but most of the time I have no idea what's going to come out. Usually it's a social blunder involving brutal honesty or taboos I think are silly.
And if my feet aren't moving at the same time, forget it. I pace through every phone conversation. Not just back and forth across a room, either. We're talking a brand new detailed path for each call that goes in and out of rooms, around furniture, up and down stairs. I follow patterns in rugs and never, ever step on a crack.
Oh yeah, and what my hands do during this process can only be described as flapping. If you've been on a video call or webinar with me, you know I'm a moving target. It's probably pretty annoying, but hey - we're all doing our best, right?
This post borders on TMI, but I'm sharing it to show how important it is to tap into any autistic traits you might have in order to better understand your child. Don't think of autism as a scary nervous system disability. Granted, it can be that, but it's also just different wiring.
The kind of wiring that makes it easy to write but difficult to speak. The kind of wiring that requires pacing and flapping to create language.
I mean, think about that - if you have a severe, nonverbal teenager or adult who paces and flaps like me, they might be writing the great American novel in their heads. It may look like excitability caused by the Sponge Bob video playing in the same room, but you know what? If someone walked in and saw me, they would assume the same thing and it couldn't be further from the truth.
Actually most people wrongly assume I'm stressed out and anxious, which is another go-to assumption about nonverbal people.
Yes, I wholeheartedly believe that people with autism are injured and damaged by environmental toxins. But make no mistake - autism is also genetic.
Tosh's dad isn't a great speaker either. And, his dad, Tosh's grandpa, also struggled to get the right words out. Poor kid really struck out on the speech genetics.
But he also uses his iPad to independently create volumes of photos and videos that show a very talented and mature artistic eye, and a staggering ability to master technology and apply it artfully.
Both Tosh's dad and I have abundant creative abilities, so that one is genetic, too.
When you're able to tap into those challenges and abilities that are the product of your wiring, you can better understand your child. You understand why and how they struggle because a lot of it is your experience. You can open your eyes to their gifts because like all kids, they probably got at least one of yours. These shared experiences can deepen your bonds, build trust and encourage your child to engage and communicate more with you.
Don't let autism get in the way of a rock solid bond with your child. Instead, let it be the path to better understanding.
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