Yesterday morning while I was setting up my materials for Emma’s literacy session, she looked over and said, “Today we do the word see.”

“Yes, Em.  That’s right!” I said.

She came over and pointed to the word “see” and said, “Yeah.  This says see.”

She was absolutely right.  The word on the page did indeed say “see.”  However the truly surprising thing was we have never worked on this word before nor to my knowledge has Emma been shown the word prior to yesterday.  Dr. Blank has maintained on a number of occasions that Emma knows much more than she lets on and while my heart soars whenever Dr. Blank has said this, I am also aware of a tiny doubting voice questioning it.  I try hard not to give that little voice much credence and am usually successful in not paying attention to it.  Still it’s always lurking somewhere in the background, no matter how often I try to shut it up.

During her literacy session Emma stumbled over the words “who” and “what”.  These are both, what Dr. Marion Blank describes as “noncontent” words (all the words that are not nouns, main verbs, adjectives and adverbs) and both are words we have worked on before.  Dr. Blank, in her book – The Reading Remedy: Six Essential Skills That Will Turn Your Child Into a Reader – writes, “Noncontent words are all the little words of our language that do not appear to have any direct meaning unto themselves.” She goes on to explain, “Although they may be difficult to define, the noncontent words are the glue that binds the content words together.”  Without these words we cannot effectively communicate.

Emma shows knowledge of things that surprise me and then doesn’t seem to remember other things we have studied, so it is inconsistent.  But what I keep coming back to is – it is much better for me to approach my interactions with Emma assuming she does know and can understand than to underestimate her abilities and therefore limit her with my own preconceived notions of what she cannot do.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:   www.Emma’s Hope Book.com

7 responses to “Words

  1. My Emma is that way with Math. It is so bizarre for me. Emma struggles with Math. Basic math, like 5 plus 2, or 6 plus 1 on certain days will stump her to the point of a meltdown. However, on other days, she gets it. Then there are the days that blow my mind where we will be talking and she will say something random, “When was papa born?” I say 1949. “You are 35 mama?” Yes. ” Oh so Papa is 27 years older than you.” WHAT? Where in the world did that come from? So for now I keep drilling the basics, working on it with a tutor in a variety of ways, but like you assuming when I speak with her that there is a knowledge embedded in her somewhere. To not honor that part of her would be unfair. But also, to not be aware of the inconsistencies in her ability to retrieve that knowledge would be a disservice to her as well. Another balancing act added to our list of parenting a child with autism. Her DANS doctor told me that when her gut is more inflamed, her brain is more inflamed and that is when her retrieval will plummet. Thank you again for a blog that grounds me, not that this is about me or my journey, but your words do help.

  2. Hi Kelly,
    Actually I hope this blog IS about you and me and all of us, really. It’s just my experience with my Emma I can write about, but it seems there are larger themes that continue to surface that most of us can relate to – with or without a child on the spectrum. Issues of patience, expectations, learning, frustration, behavioral issues etc. One of the reasons I really love writing this blog is because of the comments. It’s so good to not feel so alone, but also to hear of others experience. Ideally there would be a safe place we could all go to discuss these subjects without worrying that we would be judged or criticized. I would love to have a place where each day there was a topic and then everyone was able to comment with their thoughts on that topic, but until then I’ll just keep plugging along on this one! (Also I use this blog very specifically as a record of Emma’s progress and because I’m lazy and don’t want to have to write it all out again somewhere else, I just keep posting on this.) I have learned a tremendous amount from people who have sent me links, told me about their own experiences, given me ideas about things that worked for their child, it’s all been invaluable. So thanks for writing. I love hearing about your Emma and what you and she go through. I know it’s different, I know there are things specific to each of us, but it is good to feel there’s a whole community out there of likeminded parents, all struggling, all doing the best we can, individually and together.

  3. After reading the article in Discover Magazine by Carl Zimmer I am fascinated by what can be going on in the brain of someone who has “connection” problems, so I wouldn’t put anything past Emma.

    Toni and I were trying to watch a DVD in the family room, but the sound was not coordinated with the picture. It was terribly frustrating, and finally we turned it off because it was making both of us feel nauseated.

    Imagine what it must be like for Emma to have some kind of a disconnect going on all the time?

    I’ll bet she’s got a lot going on in her head that we are totally unaware of.



  4. I liked the link you sent by Carl Zimmer and then read another piece he wrote about teenagers and what goes on in their brains, which was also fascinating. Yes, there is just so much we don’t know. Read comment from Kelly above. She talks about her Emma and math, where she stumbles over some basic math equations but then is able to figure out instantly how much older her father is from her mother by asking what year he was born. It’s all over the map!

  5. I am going to have to read this link. There are times Emma can be so clear in her words, and other times not make a coherent sentence. On a side note, it is my father that is 27 years older. She calls him papa and my mom grandma and me mama. Not that it matters, but as we are getting to know each other I thought I would share more:) But yes, it is all over the map!!! I hope you had a wonderful day, and Emma as well.

  6. Another mother was telling me of something similar with her son who has aspergers. When he was at school he would struggle with simple arithmatic but could do more compicated Maths. He could not explain to his teachers how he did this and they theough he was just refusing to do the easier work.

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