Archive for the ‘communication’ Tag

We Are the Children of Tama   Leave a comment

At least I certainly am.  For years, I have quoted lines from books and movies where they seemed relevant, and for some reason, my children do the same.  Lots of laughs and more than that–it has become a unique language for our family.

So I always loved the Star Trek: Next Generation episode about the children of Tama.  They were a race encountered by the crew of the Enterprise that communicated entirely with literary allusions.  The crew was clueless in these interactions until after the leader of the Tama kidnapped Captain Picard so that they could experience the challenge of facing a foe together, thus building a relationship so they could understand each other.

At our house, you might hear allusions like this.  See if you can identify the movies.

Someone drops and breaks something or can’t finish a chore.  I say I will clean up the mess or cover the work: “I’m a compassionate insect.”

Some satisfying conclusion to a mess we were in: “Yes, Rico.  Ka-boom!”

Nobody knows what to do in an unfamiliar situation: “I have no memory of this place.”

Discussion of how I will respond if the kids take this or that action: “And then we have the screaming problem again…”

When departing from dear friends: “Have fun storming the castle!–It would take a miracle.”

And so forth.  There are plenty of other times when there’s less of an obvious context, where a phrase just fits the moment we’re in, or somehow reminds us of a past incident.  We get the context, however.  There are many lines we love that sum things up more perfectly than any analysis any one of us could give.  So, I just assumed other families quote movies, because like, why wouldn’t you?  It’s fun.  It’s succinct.  It gets a laugh.  It communicates.

It was only within the last couple of years that my reading about behaviors typical of people with autism led me to understand that this could be called echolalia.

Echolalia is defined as repeating speech or lines that have been heard.  If you look at the definition in some places, it appears the average person would see no context for the line that was repeated.  Based on our personal experience with our movie quotes, though, I really doubt that’s true.  Probably there is a context every time to the person on the spectrum; it’s just that the neurotypical can’t see it.

When we quote movies to each other, there is a context.  We are communicating.  It works beautifully.

I found out today that we aren’t the only ones.

In this New York Times essay, Ron Suskind relates how his son on the autism spectrum connected with an animated character from a movie, when he couldn’t communicate with anyone else.  Granted, in his situation his son had no other way to communicate for many years.  But for both families, utilizing other stories built connections in ways typical conversation was unable to do.

There’s communication going on here–if you can speak the language.

Advertisements

Posted February 7, 2018 by swanatbagend in autism

Tagged with ,

Why He’s So Flexible   Leave a comment

After twenty-eight years of being married, I learned something new about my husband–just when you think nothing else big can possibly be known.  But the revelation wasn’t really about him so much as about me.

My husband is very flexible.  He has always been willing to go along with my wild ideas, or my wishes, or my wanting to invite someone else over, or the camping trip I’d like to take.

I thought this was because–well–he’s flexible.  He’s very easy-going, reliable, calm, dependable.

In short, a rock of peace.

I suppose that is probably the main reason, if there is one only, why I pursued him and ended up choosing him as my spouse, when he indicated his willingness to engage in such an intimate connection.  I have benefitted from his character and the kindness that flows from it for years.  I have known that at some level.  But a few weeks ago, I found out that he is not as flexible as I thought.

I’m glad that the proposed weekend to which I wanted to add an activity was his birthday weekend.  We planned to travel to his mother’s to retrieve our youngest two children from their time at Camp Grandma, and the Saturday of that weekend was his birthday.  Of course his mom did not want to miss an opportunity like that!  She set up a simple party with some family members.

The other variable in play was that I was hoping to also see my brother and his family.  They live within reach in the same general area of the state we were traveling to.  I thought it would be possible to do both.  I started to make plans with my side of the family–all before actually talking with my husband about the weekend.  I just assumed, as I have many times before, that my spouse would want the same thing I did, or at the least, be willing to do what was important to me.  I mean, this is our big opportunity to connect with both sides of the fam, why wouldn’t we do that?

And that would normally have been what happened.

However.

Because it was his birthday on the day we were talking about, and because I had been reading a pretty good book on marriage in the weeks before, this self-absorbed person actually had a rational thought.

I’d probably better ask dear-husband what he is willing to do.  Would he like to extend our travels by some additional hours?

So, I asked him what he really wanted to do.

and I told him that I really wanted to know.

and he told me what he really wanted to do.

He did not feel like adding more driving, more events, and more craziness to his life.

So, we did not try to do it all in one weekend.

We enjoyed our time with our kids and his mom.  We got a great several hours long visit with our nephew and his wife and two boys, who came over for the birthday party, more time than we usually get, and I got to know my niece-in-law quite a bit more.  She’s a real gem.  The next day before we left we enjoyed an incredible meal at the Olive Garden with the family and my brother and sister-in-law, provided by my mother-in-law, and that was a good time also.  It was good to see my husband getting the time with his mother that he wanted and needed.

So, why wasn’t he flexible this time?

It’s not that he’s not flexible.

He’s so flexible, he probably has almost never gotten his way in our marriage.  This time, because I stopped to ask, he got what he wanted and needed.

He has been flexible to help me.  He has lived for 28 years with a person who’s so high-strung and particular that she does not handle situations well at all if they don’t go according to her expectations.  He has been patient and calm and long-suffering because he knew that a) as my oldest puts it, I would have a snit if things did not go as I expected and b) he loved me enough to be willing to do what helped me be okay.

Sure, he could have told me 27 years ago that I was the most ridiculously self-absorbed, inflexible crazy person he had ever met.  Maybe he should have.  He could have told me that I was not being fair and that my almost always having to have my way was unacceptable.  He would have been perfectly correct.

But I don’t know that I would have been able to hear it then.

He has spent the years loving me in myriad ways, making me more lovely.  He has loved me so well that I can now freely chose another way to live.

 

 

 

And Autism Took That Away   1 comment

Last night, my husband and I almost had a fight over something I said to him.

I’m thankful that after 27 years, he knew me well enough to know that my intent wasn’t to hurt him.

I had a really long day after a really long two weeks, and I did not think I could do one more thing for anyone.  I wanted him to know that I needed a peaceful evening with nothing else added in.  But the way it came out made him feel as if I thought he always comes barging in thoughtlessly demanding fifty different things from me when he gets home from work.  Of course, that’s very untrue.  It hurt his feelings.

The thing is: I was trying to communicate well.

I thought I was doing fine.  I thought I was being pleasant, but still letting my spouse know what I needed.

Utter fail!

I didn’t greet him first, didn’t ask how his day was.  I hugged him, but my words were, “I need to not have anyone demanding anything from me tonight.”

You’ve had days like that, I know.  And it’s important to communicate your needs, so your spouse will know them.  But this was not the way to do it.

I was mentally catapulted straight back into Mr. Dilbeck’s seventh grade social studies class.  I was distraught because I had been told some boy liked me.  The thought apparently terrified me, and I had no idea how to react.  Other things upset me that day, and by the time I got to that afternoon class, I was a complete mess.  When attendance was taken, in some sort of desperate attempt to get help, when my name was called, I didn’t say “Here.”  I said, “I’m here, but I wish I wasn’t.”

I stayed after class that day to discuss my disrespectful response, with a teacher who turned out be kind once I explained myself, but I learned that there are certain forums which you don’t use for expressing personal angst.

At least–I thought I learned.

But I didn’t, fully.

That certainly wasn’t the only socially inappropriate thing I did as a teenager.  By far.  I rolled off my chair in a Sunday school class one time when I was just about dead with sleep, and got my entire class in trouble with our long-suffering teacher.

I complained to my biology teacher that she didn’t care that I didn’t understand what she was talking about, and spent time helping her to clean up and organize the lab as a way to make up for my misbehavior.

All this fallout was brought on by stressful situations overcoming my social abilities.  My friends would ask me, why did you do that?  And in hindsight I always realized I should not have, but I never had any reasonable explanation for my ridiculous behavior.

I obviously learned something from those experiences.  But apparently not enough to only have one of those experiences.

There are other things that a neurotypical person may routinely expect to do that I cannot.

Autism takes away the ability to attend concerts and any large, loud or frenetic events.  It’s scary and overwhelming.

While I rode my fantastic intellectual abilities to the top in high school and college, there aren’t any good grades to be had working and living and interacting with other people each day in the rest of one’s life.  Autism means that I cannot have a career which involves change, unpredictability, and random events.  I think I’d say waitressing and air traffic control are out.  I did work as a camp counselor, and I do have children, but I’m definitely done with the camp counselor days, and in my own family, we’ve all found ways to help each other out by keeping our general life routine pretty predictable.  If work is changeable, it’s much too stressful, and while I can handle noise and chaos for a time and in some emergency situations, my tank drains really rapidly.

Having autism means the ability to be flexible is extremely compromised.  Friends, now you know why it is impossible to get me to do anything at the drop of a hat–except maybe go get an ice cream.  If you think of it last minute, I say no.  Sorry.

Autism takes away a natural ability to comprehend many of the mysterious ways that relationships work.  I work hard to maintain friendships.  But if I have been mistaken in your level of interest, and you drift away from me, I won’t understand why.  I just can’t comprehend how friendship could evaporate.

I still for the life of me cannot determine when people are being sincere.  I’ve always been naïve, and while I thankfully haven’t ever been permanently damaged by that naïveté, I still routinely look forward to receiving future invitations that never come.  A year later, I will finally realize that the person was dropping a meaningless social nicety when she said, “Let’s do this again soon.”  And it’s not like I haven’t been told that these kind of comments are almost never meant specifically and actually.  I know that.  It’s just that when I’ve wrapped up a fun time or an enjoyable conversation, my mind can’t detect any insincerity.  Why wouldn’t we get together again soon?  I actually spent about a year once waiting for two different people to get back to me about a proposed get together.  Sure, some of that was depression, some was being stubborn, but what person in her right mind really believes that after a month has passed, she’d get an actual invitation?

No matter how old I get, I still say the wrong thing, even when I’m specifically trying to be appropriate and adult.  Even when I try to communicate my thoughts and feelings, while maintaining respect for the other person’s position, or love for the other person, I fail to do so.

Offending people is the last thing I want to do.  I’ve always wanted to be liked more than just about anything.

But sometimes, autism makes that impossible.

Posted May 23, 2016 by swanatbagend in autism

Tagged with , , , ,