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
Yes, that doggie REALLY is cute! He is loving life!! :O) Obviously with Brett being non verbal we haven’t had to work on pronouns so much. :O) I am sure it is so abstract that it is very challenging. I did think it interesting the other day though….the kids got their spring pictures back from school. I was on the cell phone when my husband was picking up Brett. I heard him get out Brett’s pics and say, “who is this?” and Brett responded “I”! On purpose or a total fluke, I will never REALLY know but it’s the first time I have even heard him come close to saying such a thing and in the right context. I would have expected him to try and verbalize Brett first when asked that question but it was exciting and I choose to believe he said it very intentionally! :O) He’s my smart boy!! PS…we LOVE to dance around too. Brett used to make me sing a certain wiggle’s song every time it came on his dvd….I remember my nephew walking in on us one night and thinking….what the heck are you people doing!!!!??? You have to enjoy life!! :O)
I absolutely believe, without any doubt, Brett knew what he was saying. Think about it. Of all the random utterances that could have been made, he said “I”. I’ve done this too, wondered whether Emma understood, whether something profound that she said, was somehow a mistake, as though I was afraid to hope for too much. But more and more I am convinced that she knows so much more than she expresses. Think of that amazing story about the conference you went to and the young man who didn’t speak, remember how he communicated, how articulate and beautiful his words were? That didn’t happen overnight! Brett is so young, he is just at the beginning of his journey, but he IS understanding, I just know it. very exciting! It made my day.
And now you just made mine!!!! Thanks Ariane!!!! :O)