Those were Emma’s exact words. She beckoned to me, then to her brother, Nic and then to her dad. “Come on. Come dance with me!”
This sort of utterance is something we have waited for, helped Emma with, hoping that one day, some day she would say something like – “Come dance with me.” For those of you who know all about the issues of pronoun reversal, the difficulties in initiating and maintaining interactions, the challenges of expressive language and the importance of Emma’s words, skip down to the last paragraph, but for the rest of you, stay with me as I try to explain.
A defining characteristic of autism is pronoun “confusion/reversal.” I have problems with the “confusion” assertion, as it seems pretty clear to me that when Emma says “Do you want pancakes?” she knows I don’t want pancakes, but is expressing her desire to have pancakes. Either these are the words she would like me to say to her or these are the words she can locate to express her desire to have pancakes. I don’t think Emma is “confused” about who loves pancakes. I don’t for a second believe that when she asks such a question it is her intention to invite me to eat pancakes, while she foregoes eating them herself. So no, I think that part of the whole “confusion” piece is actually incorrect. However, I do think the idea that when speaking English, she is “me” when referring to herself and I am “you” when she is speaking, but that that is reversed when the other person speaks, is confusing. And if you aren’t confused yet, try explaining all of that to someone whose first language isn’t a spoken language. And after you’ve tackled that, move on to possessive pronouns. Good luck to you, good luck.
One of my favorite quotes from someone I know who is Autistic is: “My first language is written, my second is music, my third is math and a distant fourth is spoken.” It perfectly describes that person’s loves, challenges and neurology.
Emma voiced her desire to have us dance with her, not simply asked that we watch her perform (something she also loves to do) but wanted to dance together, is also worth mentioning. All of us love to dance. When I was single and in my twenties, I used to go to Studio 54 with my girlfriends. Our preferred night was Sunday as it was designated “gay night” with the best music and we knew we could dance all night without worrying about guys hitting on us. Let’s just say – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Still, dancing by yourself is one thing, it’s quite another to invite a group to join you. For Emma, it was even more significant as parallel play is the norm for her, though recently we’ve seen an increase in her desire for interaction and playing games. Interacting requires much more expressive language and an ability to tolerate a lessening of control over any given situation.
So last night we danced. First to Gwen Stefani, then Michael Jackson, back to Gwen Stefani and Emma, ever the dancing DJ, even threw in some Lady Gaga. It was a great night.
*I have been trying to figure out a way to work into this post the photograph below. No opportunity presented itself, so I’m just going to post it, completely off topic, but it was too good to pass up. Emma is terrified of dogs. Even this dog. He was adorable. “Emma don’t you want to pet him? Look how cute he is. Don’t you think he’s cute?”
But he really was cute, don’t you think?
Read My Fear Toolkit published in the Huffington Post