Friendship – Another Myth Regarding Autism

My friend Ibby is here staying with us for a few days.  It’s a working visit, but that doesn’t take away from the joy we are all experiencing because she is here.  Who says work cannot also be a blast?

Emma and Ibby 

Em and Ib

I’ve spoken of Ibby many times on this blog (here, here, here and here to link a few) because Ib has, more than any single human being, done more to change my views regarding autism and my daughter than any other person.  I know that may sound hyperbolic, but it’s actually not.  It’s true.  Or as Ib would say, “Fact.”  And it is.  Fact.  Another fact is the gratitude I feel toward her.  Just tremendous gratitude for opening my eyes, not just to one thing, but to multiple things.  As an example, here is just one little thing that happened as a direct result of Ib.

Ib gently urged me to watch the documentary Wretches and Jabberers.  When I did not immediately watch it, she reminded me and again encouraged me to rent it.  I think she had to remind me three times, before I actually sat down and watched it.  And because I watched W& J, when I presented at the Autcom Conference last fall I went to hear Harvey, Tracy, Pascal and Larry’s presentation on supported typing and because I went to that presentation I had the idea that maybe, just maybe it might be the thing that could help my daughter communicate more reliably and because I had that idea I approached Pascal and asked if he was ever in New York City and because I asked him that, Pascal began helping us learn to support Em and because we started helping support Em I began to understand what presuming competence really meant and on it goes like the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” books, one thing leads to another and another and suddenly you look back and see that this person, this one person has influenced another (me) and the ripple effect is so far-reaching and beyond anything anyone could have imagined.

The Wretches and Jabberers example was just one example of one tiny thing Ib had a hand in.  I could name at least a dozen or more much larger examples, like the conversation (documented ‘here‘) we had about language and my daughter’s specifically and how sometimes she says things that seem completely unrelated to anything that’s going on, but how it is related, even if it’s not related in any way I can identify.  Sometimes it’s a leap-frog kind of association, often there’s an emotional component too, so when she suddenly blurts out, “No not going to see motorcycle bubbles” I now know Em is thinking about visiting her Granma in Colorado or is anticipating an electrical storm or watching the 4th of July fireworks display from the ranch. There’s excitement and maybe some anxiety and even fear and eager anticipation.   I know this now because Ib has helped me understand and has taught me how to “lean into” her words and not try to do a word for word translation.

Ib and I have been working on a book together about Autism, Inclusion and Friendship.  As a result I am thinking a great deal about friendships and relationships in general what they mean and how they develop and how the very definition of friendship is about inclusion and support and accommodation and giving each other slack and cheering each other on and appreciation and gratitude and being there for the other person.  It’s a mutual give and take and it’s reciprocal.  Relationships are basically what make this world and life worth living.  Ironically friendship was the thing I wrote about on this blog’s first entry.  It was what I wanted my daughter to experience, but feared she might not ever have, because I believed what I was being told about autism and that myth surrounding autism and being alone.

Over three years ago, when I started this blog, I wrote, “…hope that we may help our daughter Emma, now 8 years old, lead a life that includes deep friendships and the powerful bonds that result from being able to communicate with one another.  A life that is enriched by our interactions..  this is what I dream of for her..”   Who knew that not only would my definition of what constitutes “communication” completely change, but so would my mistaken ideas about my daughter’s ability to have friendships.  As an added plus Ibby is not only in my life, but in my entire family’s!

So yeah, Ib is really important to me.  I love her dearly; we do all the things friends do when they get together: confide in each other, laugh, hang out without having to talk, hang out and talk and talk and talk, cry, and when we aren’t physically together we stay in touch.  But as with all really close friends, Ib is in my mind and heart regardless of where she is.  I think about her and when we haven’t spoken for a few days we reach out to each other and connect, sometimes briefly if we’re both busy, but she’s always “here” in my heart.

As Ib has said, “Friendship is Fact.”

Vanilla cake with vanilla icing – made by Emma, Nic and me 

Ib's Cake


21 responses to “Friendship – Another Myth Regarding Autism

  1. Friendships are so incredibly valuable. I always feel honoured with the people in my life, supporting me, challenging me and saying that one thing that starts a whole new direction in my life – your example with the documentary was perfect. Enjoy your visit (and the cake – it looks delicious!).

  2. Happy fun and love! Yay! Fill your hearts, eat cake, and write! So much goodness❤ I smile:)

    • (((Chou Chou))) We are having an abundance of love and joy and friendship this month. First with Lauri and her family down in Tampa and now here with Ib… I’m thinking Chou Chou and Doc have to have a gig in NYC soon, right??? We would love, love, love, to see you, you know that, right?

  3. Ariane introduced me to Ibby and we began talking online after she read my book, The Book of Paul. She was so funny, insightful and clever in our IMs, that I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. Meeting Ib in person was even better than I imagined. She is soooooo awesome, loving and wonderful in every way. I’m sad that she’s leaving today, and I hope it’s not too long before we can spend more face/hug time together. Flap, flap, flap!

    Oh, and by the way. I’ve been lucky enough to read some of what they’ve already written for the book they are co-authoring and it is totally GREAT! Can’t wait to read the finished work!

  4. Friendship – the stuff of life for everyone regardless of who thinks what. FACT Can’t wait for the reading of this new book!

  5. I look forward to your book. I have Wendy Lawson’s book on friendship and I re-read it a lot and it’s very helpful but there’s a lot that I need that’s not in there. But I don’t know what it is because I know that I need something but I don’t have words to say what I need. I will get your book when it comes out and even if it doesn’t have everything I need and lack, I am sure it will have some of it, as well as other things I needed without knowing I was lacking. Thank you.

  6. I have that book too and not sure I would say I found it helpful. It demonstates friendships are important but to me the impact was actually to make the business of establishing them seem more out of reach at the time.

    When I have been short of friends I have followed an actual plan on how to obtain them. It did work but I didn’t feel great about some of the mental arithmetic in my last implementation of it. Right now I have more friends than I know what to do with for some reason. Not a problem I thought I would have – ever.

    • I have more friends as a direct result of this blog than I ever imagined possible. One of my friends joked with me that we should preface our friendship with *kids, don’t try this without parental supervision!* because we traveled long distances to meet each other, having only met on FB and over email. It’s the dawning of a new age for friendships!

      • Argh that went well. Some of my closest friends now are people I have never met. I have more close friends irl as well so it’s not unhealthy but that’s just the way things go now. It’s good to have the pool of potential friends open on a global level .

  7. Oh, I’m so glad I found your blog. My son, Oliver, is also just learning to communicate through writing. I have watched W&J so I know there are lots of others out there like my boy but we just don’t know any of them. We are going to Syracuse this summer though so hopefully that will change soon. But still, it is so nice to read your words and recognize so much of our own experience.

    • Christine – I will be presenting (with another friend of mine, Amy Sequenzia) at Syracuse this summer and Ibby is giving the keynote! Please come over and introduce yourself, it will be lovely to meet you!!

  8. Come see us in Syracuse! Love! Fact!

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