“Minus One Equals Zero”

Emma reached for the last bag of Pirate’s Booty yesterday and said, “Minus one equals zero.”  Then she grabbed the bag and ate it’s contents.

I am constantly impressed with Emma’s mind and creative use of words.  I often think when I listen to her that there’s a kind of poetry in the way she phrases things, the way she will use seemingly unrelated words to describe something, such as “motorcycle bubbles” for the fireworks we see over the fourth of July.  It conjures up the noise, which she finds frightening, but also the visual image of bubbles, which I think she likes.  I don’t know if this is what she thinks of when she uses those words, but to me, it’s beautifully descriptive in a nuanced and personal way.  It’s very “Emma.”

When Emma and I did some literacy work yesterday, she was having a terrible time with a story we read and that she had to summarize.  I mentioned to Joe that we had a tough session, so when he worked with her later he used no verbal language and she was able to fly through the work.  During my session with her I was reminded of a post I read recently, written by an autistic adult who described how one day conversing and finding the correct words came relatively easily, but the following day, or even that afternoon, she found it almost impossible to express herself verbally.

I have become much more aware of Emma’s sensory issues in the past few weeks from reading other blogs written by autistic adults.  I have certainly been aware that Emma had to deal with a sensory overload, but how that manifested itself, what that actually meant to her was something I had trouble understanding.  But reading what it’s like for some other autistic people has been enlightening.  This is one of my favorite posts on the subject of language and words.  It is written by E. who has a blog – The Third Glance.  The post is entitled – Words.

Another post – Squawk? by Square 8 is another wonderful description of how talking can be akin to walking through a minefield for many on the spectrum.  Sadly this blog’s last entry was in November 2010.

Minus one equals…

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

4 responses to ““Minus One Equals Zero”

  1. You know it’s funny – I totally get both “Minus one equals zero” and “motorcycle bubbles” – I might’ve called fireworks something similar when I was little – I *hated* them (and motorcycles). They didn’t make exactly the same noise, but it was close – they both rumble, pop, and get really loud for a second before fading. Both are bad for my overactive startle reflex.

    Words are amazing things. They have lots of meanings. I love the “Minus one equals zero” – exactly! She took the last one, and now there’s zero left! 🙂

  2. I’m so glad you told me this! I feel so unsure of my interpretations regarding Emma. I almost always wonder if I’ve gotten it right. This morning she looked at me, pointed to the only yogurt in the frig and said, “One minus one equals zero,” before taking it and having it for breakfast. As though she wanted to be sure I’d understood her abbreviated version from yesterday. I am so grateful she is doing her best to help me!

  3. Don’t know if you’ve read it yet, but this reminds me of the book “Born on a Blue Day”, an autobiography by an Autistic genius, and how he describes how each letter, number and even day of the week, has a visual image and represents a specific shape, color and texture in his mind. What may seem completely irrelevant or “off-topic” to us NT’s, is completely relevant to how they perceive the world. I love my sons poetic language to, and my husband and I like to use the phrases he creates.

    • I have heard about it a couple of times now and keep meaning to buy it, but will now after reading your comment. Thanks so much Shiri. Really appreciate hearing about it again.

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