This is the typed “conversation” I had with Emma last night inspired by the wonderful comments left here yesterday. This was done with very little talking. Emma’s replies are in italics.
“Hi Emma. I know one of your favorite songs is “Beat it”. What other songs do you like?
Emma likes Fireworks. Emma likes to go swimming.
Hey! Did you go swimming today?
Yes, it cold go swimming.
Emma, was the water cold or was the air outside cold or both?
Both cold outside.
It is cold outside now because it is fall. I like the fall when the air gets colder. Do you like the fall too?
Yes, I do like the fall too.
What do you want to do this weekend?
I want to have a weekend with Jackie at the Vanderbilt wiyemseeay. And go swimming.”
This was HUGE for Emma and me. Rereading it now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t ask better questions and follow her lead more instead of directing the conversation. For example I wish I’d spent more time talking to her about swimming instead of going off about the seasons, which were of little if any interest to her. I could have asked her a great many questions about the pool and swimming and the water temperature, but didn’t. I was so surprised when she wrote, “Yes, it cold go swimming.” I literally laughed out loud when she wrote that, because this is just huge for her to introduce a new thought, to volunteer new information when typing together. Excitement doesn’t really sum up what I felt. I was ecstatic!
Emma kept trying to read my typed words out loud, but I reminded her to read silently. I made a huge number of mistakes while having this conversation with her. I corrected her spelling a couple of times, and wished I hadn’t. I never know whether it’s best to let her spell things and go over the spelling later, separately or whether its better to correct it right away or better to leave it alone. I wanted her to feel encouraged, supported and cheered on, not criticized. So that’s something I am still questioning. I also get so excited when she says anything off the grid, I get overwhelmed and can’t think what to say other than – “OMG you just introduced a new topic and I’m so excited!!” Maybe I can learn to relax a little and go with it a bit more. I am also aware that my excitement is an example of my NOT assuming competence or rather it is me feeling euphoric that Em shows her vast intelligence in a way that my NT brain can grasp. I really want to learn how to move away from that limited thinking on my part.
When Emma was diagnosed with autism I remember that first day when all the therapists came to our home to work with her. I’d done my homework, read all the materials the agency provided me with and then some. Yet, I remember how everything was “dumbed down”. Things that I knew she knew were treated as though she didn’t know them. Really simple things were suddenly a huge deal if she indicated she knew them. I remember vividly my confusion. I began to doubt everything I thought I knew or assumed about Emma. I completely capitulated to some set idea about my daughter given by a group of people who had never met her but made assumptions based on a single word – Autistic.
I’m old enough and have enough humility to admit I don’t know what I’m doing a great deal of the time. This is not a popular statement in our culture of bullshit reigning supreme, even if it’s all a lie, even if it means people who know almost nothing about a given topic, but who claim “expertise” are suddenly seen as having something sensible to say. The art of bullshit has become a well honed skill by about the age of ten these days. It’s amazing how quickly children learn to adopt it. Add a little chutzpah and you’ve got a kid who will go far in this world of ours without being particularly knowledgable in anything.
However, the art of bullshit requires a couple of things – a massive dose of ego and an ability to lie. My daughter Emma has neither of these. Still, I am feeling confident she will do well in this crazy world of ours.
The ongoing construction of the Freedom Tower