When I went to get my Master’s degree in Creative Writing my favorite class was one in which we spent the entire semester dissecting two paragraphs from Virginia Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own. We spent two weeks on ONE sentence! This was bliss as I’d never completely understood the word before. Pure bliss. Needless to say, I was the only student in a class of about 25, who felt this way. Everyone else grumbled and complained, spoke of their excruciating boredom, many even transferred out of the class. I couldn’t understand their feelings. What was NOT to like?
I’m a big fan of the highlighter, so it was with some amusement that I read a note from Emma’s teacher last night, “She enjoys highlighting words at school and this will also help to increase her ability to read sight word vocabulary…” Her teacher had thoughtfully included an enormous neon yellow highlighter in her binder! Love that. If I had a photo of a random page in Douglas Biklen’s book – Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone I would insert it here as almost every page has notations and sentences highlighted. Such as this one from the chapter, Reflections on Language – Lucy Blackman: “Birthdays were happy, exciting, chaotic, and connectional with food – the ultimate source of pleasure – so excitement was a birthday party. But excitement, terror and fury are very similar emotions, so I still scream “birthday party” when expectations are more than I can cope with.”
In Aspen, Colorado where we go several times a year, they have fireworks at the foot of Aspen Mountain on the Fourth of July and again on New Year’s Eve. Emma both looks forward to the beautiful display and is terrified by the sound they make. She calls the fireworks “motorcycle bubbles” which is such a wonderfully descriptive phrasing of what she is seeing and hearing. This idea that “excitement, terror and fury are similar emotions” is not something I’d considered before. While walking the dogs on the ranch road with Emma, who has then (seemingly) randomly said “motorcycle bubbles”, I’m left wondering why she would say this. Now I question whether her fear of dogs is similar to the terror/excitement she experiences from the fire works display. She loves sitting in our neighbor’s house protected from the loud booming sounds, while still being able to see the beautiful colors of light raining down on to the mountain and town below.
Could this also be why she links rain to “motorcycle bubbles”? Is rain equated with an electrical storm or the “raining” of lights during a firework display? I can, literally, become lost in this kind of thinking. I find it fascinating and exciting. Like Virginia Woolf, whose writing I happen to be a fan of, Emma uses such disparate and surprising words to describe things. I am reminded of the German word for “skyscraper”, the literal translation, I believe, is “cloud scratcher”. How fantastic is that? It’s beautifully descriptive, even poetic.
One of my favorite Cloud Scratchers – The Chrysler Building
Imagine if your interface with emotion were the sheer physicality, without the cognitive overlay. Those three are almost identical. Also, anticipation like ooh can’t wait does your body the same as anxiety. This is one of my primary reasons for loving Theatre. It matches up your body knowledge with event concepts in ways that give you all the different cognition words. Unless I am really tired or overloaded, I can fluently discern the differences between say positive excitement and gotta-leave-now-fear by having a multitasking look at what I am thinking.
Another fabulous comment from you, Ib. When I read your comment I can ‘feel’ the meaning, but when I try to understand it with words and ‘feel’ it at the same time, it’s as though those two areas in my brain are severed from one another, with no overlap. No sarcasm here, but literal truth. It’s very, very difficult for me, which is why these kinds of ideas take so long, I think, for me to fully take in and understand. But I am and do get there eventually!
I am SO buying Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone! Thanks, Ariane.
It’s really terrific. I wish someone had handed a copy of this to me when it was first published in 2005!
I’m buying this book, too. Or at least checking to see if the library has it!
Marisa likes fireworks, for the most part. At a safe distance. Our neighborhood happens to be what I call Fireworks Central – we are at equal distances from the casino, ballparks, and rec areas that regulary put on fireworks shows. On the 4th of July, our neighborhood is a literal block party, and we can watch New Years Eve fireworks from our window, in the warm house. It’s actually pretty cool!
Risa loves them from a distance. This year, we went to a ballpark show and went to a party a friend of Joel’s was having, which is on private property, directly behind the ballpark. The fireworks were literally, practically overhead. Marisa FREAKED out, and I gotta say – I don’t like them up that close, either! I’ve had way too many close calls where I’ve almost gotten injured. Anyhow, if we watch them from the house, she loves them. Pretty much the same as me! 😉
I absolutely LOVE the term “motorcycle bubbles”, btw!
Hi Angie! I wouldn’t like having fireworks that close either. Definitely check to see if the library has Douglas Biklen’s book. It is really terrific!
When Liam says “the supermarket is closed” he feels sad. When he says the Supermarket is closed and the gluten free shop (his favourite store) is closed” he is very sad. When he says the Supermarket is closed. The Gluten Free Shop is closed. The Hairdressers ( this place freaks him out and we have to cut his hair at home) is closed” he is really distressed. Interesting how he uses places or situations that evoke particular emotions to communicate how he feels.
He’s like Em in that they are both using something “real” but seemingly unrelated to the current situation to describe their feelings, right?! Ibby’s comment applies, “Imagine if your interface with emotion were the sheer physicality, without the cognitive overlay.”
I have always thought Emma’s mind is that of a poet’s. She applies seemingly unrelated events to emotions, which are then repeated, seemingly out of context, but if I close my eyes and listen, without trying to do a word for word interpretation, I “understand” (some of the time!)
I am impressed with both Arianne and Elizabeth for having worked out those things about what your children mean when they say something that is actually communicative but seems random. Too many times I have seen people dismiss a comment or an overture in pathological terms rather than see the communication or other attempt that without the labels would be progress.
I am so with Emma as far as fireworks go. I love and hate them. When I was a child and we lived in Calgary they could be viewed from the roof of our house (our parents were a wee bit casual about safety as far as that went) Stamped was a blissful stretch of time a where they could be seen nightly with only the faintest of booms. When I first moved to this town they held their Canada Day fireworks off the ocean near a park. A few years later because it was mainly the downtown business improvement types who pay for them they moved them to the Inner Harbour. I have not been able to go since. The fireworks are already loud but then the sound ricochets off every building over and over again turning it from pleasure to agony and then panic in record time. As an adult you don’t have anyone to express that to but the consequences of running somewhat blindly through a huge throng of people in distress can wind up not so great. I tried watching them on tv but that is not the same at all eh. (the eh thrown in at the end since it was Canada day fireworks being discussed so I may as well conform to stereotype)
Hmm I really should register so I could edit. Pardon the multiple typos in the above.
Love the “eh” at the end!
BTW, happy to edit, just tell me – “stamped was a blissful stretch of time a where…” (?) I took that to mean summer and removed the errant “a” but would hate to presume…
That description of running blindly through great hoards of people in distress was perfect. I don’t enjoy crowds, (I know I live in NYC!) but I happily avoid the really well populated areas like midtown or the 4th of July crowds, so your description of the urge and desire was one I could completely relate to.
Ibby told me that I had to stop trying to translate word for word and try to instead get the “sense” or the “feeling” Em’s words evoked. I think about that a great deal when I’m with Emma and it’s been incredibly helpful. I’m grateful to have someone willing to hear my frustration and walk me through a different way of understanding.
Stampede was what I meant. In theory I do have a word press account but it is a few more days before I can use it for something like this. It’s not big deal I am sure it is readable I am just a perfectionist. Worn out from Yom Kippur will be my excuse for a day or two more.
Now Gareeth if I could only figure out what my little girl says “bojour” . All I know is she is happy when she says it.
Does she know French? I’m happy when I say Bon Jour too!
I dont think so but then maybe she does. Assume competency right?
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