Answering “why” questions is usually quite difficult if not impossible for many autistic children. Emma is no exception. Usually a conversation, which starts with “Why?” ends as abruptly as it began.
“Hey Em, why do you want to do that?” “Why do you want to go there?” “Why are you screaming?” “Why are you sad?” “Why are you hitting yourself?” etc.
99.9% of the time when asked “why?” Emma will either – walk away, not answer or will answer by repeating the question.
“Why?” Emma will respond in a high-pitched voice edged with anxiety. “Why you hitting,” or “Why want to?”
Repeating the question does not produce positive results. Repeating the question in a louder voice also does not make a difference. After all there is nothing wrong with Emma’s hearing. She hears the question she just has a difficult time responding. So it was noteworthy when Emma responded to a “why” question the other day.
Emma wanted to have a pair of scissors so as to cut the gym mat we had tied around a standing beam for Nic to use when practicing his karate punches and kicks.
“Emma why do you want to take it down?” Richard asked.
“Because I want to jump into the swimming pool,” came Emma’s surprising response.
Now many of you reading this may be confused by her words, but to us, who understood she meant she wanted to turn the multi-colored gym mat on it’s other side, which happens to be all blue, and pretend it’s a swimming pool, we were in shock that she answered a “why” question and answered it so beautifully with a clear, concise, complete sentence.
When Richard told me I couldn’t believe it. “Really?” I said, barely able to contain my excitement. “Really? She said because?”
Richard nodded his head.
“But that’s amazing!”
“Yup,” Richard said.
So Richard cut the mat down, told her to put on her swimsuit and let her “dive” into the “swimming pool”.
Ah life at the Zurcher-Long’s… it just never gets boring around here.
I recently found your blog through “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism” and am slowly reading through the archives. It’s so great to hear the perspectives of other parents, specifically with a girl on the spectrum. Our 6 year old daughter “K” is just now starting to answer the “why?” questions appropriately. When those long-awaited milestones are achieved, it makes it all the sweeter.
Hi Stephanie, so glad you reached out. That’s really terrific that K is answering “why” questions at such a young age! (It’s all relative, right?) How exciting!