“Let’s Talk About Communication Abilities”

*As always Emma gave me permission to post this.  Emma typed her words by independently pointing to the letters on a bluetooth qwerty keyboard attached to her iPad.

This morning I asked Emma what she wanted to talk about.  She wrote, “How about we talk about communication abilities.”

A:  “Okay, that’s a great idea!”

E:  “Especially for someone like me.”

A:  “Yes, tell me more.”

E:  I am able to communicate really well with words, but people don’t expect me to, so when they see me typing, they eagerly watch, but they don’t listen to what I write as much as they listen to the words tumbling from my mouth.”

A:  “I think that’s such an amazing observation!”

E:  “Know that believing in someone’s ability will be greeted with inward smiles, so you must never give the doubts breathing space.”

We talked about “ability” and the power of believing in both oneself and another versus doubting.

E:  “Many insist on finding proof, but when sitting with someone like me they only see the things I do that confirm what they already believe and turn their backs on all that would prove them wrong.”

A:  “Is there anything or anyone specific you’re referring to?”

E: “It is what I have experienced, sadly.”

I told Emma how sorry I was.  We talked about this more and then I said, “I think your words really do affect many people who are listening and as a result are changing how they see their child.  Even if only a few people listen, it’s worth repeating, don’t you think?

E:  “Some that change their views, teach others well.”

A:  Yes, I think so too.  Many people have reached out to us on Facebook and on the blog to tell us.  It’s always so wonderful when we hear from them.

E:  “Now we must remain patient and doggedly trudge ahead.”

I told Emma, she was leading the way and I would always follow.

E:  “Together we will eagerly tether our ideas, so having happy thoughts will woo anger.”

Ariane and Em ~ May 2014

Ariane and Emma ~ May 2014

38 responses to ““Let’s Talk About Communication Abilities”

  1. Your posts teach me lessons every day and always give me something worthy to talk about with my family. Love you both dearly.

  2. “never give the doubts breathing space”…I love that. I’m going to put it on my wall. Emma is so incredibly poetic and insightful. I wish I could write as beautifully as she does (and I get paid to write for a living). She is also entirely right about people looking for the things that will confirm established beliefs (not just around autism). I can’t tell you how grateful I am to her for the way she has challenged some of my own beliefs (for the better) and validated many others. Your blog taught me what presuming competence really means, and it continues to guide how I think about my son’s abilities.

  3. powerful words!!! Can we elect Emma president of…… Something….. In a few years time 😛

  4. Emma has taught me so much, she is an inspiration and she is changing the world! You both are.

  5. “Together we will eagerly tether our ideas, so having happy thoughts will woo anger.”

    A formidable team ❤

  6. I am listening Emma! Thank you.

  7. Well said, Emma. You provide hope for many and lessons for all.

  8. Emma- When my daughter was first diagnosed I was terrified for her. My only source for info was Autism Speaks, you can guess how they made me feel about it. But then I found your Mom’s blog and read your story and your words. You helped change how I saw my daughter and autism. Thank you for being willing to put yourself and your experiences out there.

  9. I cant really say anything i havent a thousand times besides…thank you for your bravery Emma to let your life be so public. I think when he gets older a little boy named Ethan might thank you for turning his mommas ideas inside out so she could see past the outside to the smart little boy he is, and fight for others to do the same. That’s at least one difference you’ve made for sure…and I’m confident he is only one of many 🙂

  10. Emma is leading the way! Thank you Emma!

  11. Marie Brennan

    Thanks Emma. Continue the good work!

  12. Emma, you help me every day. I carry some of your wise words in my heart wherever I go (this is not an exaggeration, i really do) and they help me whenever I start to go the wrong way with my little boy. People are telling me that he understands less than I think, but I know they are wrong. I don’t just think they are – I know they are and that difference is down to you.

  13. I love this blog and gain and learn SOO much from Emma’s words. Keep writing. You are making a huge difference in the lives of so many.

  14. Ever since my step son came into my life at the age of 2 years old I knew there was something different about him. It took years for me to get him diagnosed but he has recently been diagnosed ASD and when I found out I didn’t know how to approach. Your blogs and writings are teaching me so much and opening my eyes to see the world the way he does. I tried reading books. I tried looking up other pages but nothing connects and teaches me the way Emma does. I feel better and in turn I know my step son feels better too. You help me change into a better understanding person. He is 10 years old now and I can’t get enough of reading your blogs and posts. Thank you for sharing yourself with us all.

  15. this is so awesome. ❤

  16. Dear Emma,

    Though there are those who may choose to disbelieve and those who focus solely on “the words tumbling from” your mouth, please know that there are thousands who not only read, but anxiously await and depend on, your messages every day. Know that the ripples of both your pain and wisdom shared grace the waters far beyond your grasp as each of us pass it on. If you were to look down from above you would see them in all the colors of the rainbow washing away sadness, giving hope, changing our world.

    Much love to you,

  17. Wow, everything on this blog is amazingly informative. I have learned so much from both Emma and Ariane. Thank you both very much!

  18. Emma, you have taught me so much! Thank you! I have completely changed my feelings about my daughter’s Autism and I am sharing what I’ve learned from you with other moms all the time now! Your words and your Mom’s are reaching more and more people everyday and changing how we all view our amazing, competent children!

  19. sophiestrains

    Emma, whenever I am in doubt or unsure about my Sophie I think of you- “what would Emma say about this?” you are the only “expert” I am interested in hearing from.

  20. Emma your words mean so much to me and my family. You and your mom have changed my way of thinking. There was a time when I believed the things that doctors/therapists etc said about my son. They chose to focus on what they thought were disabilities. But now I understand that I need to listen and learn from the real experts like you. His abilities are what I need everyone to focus on. I refer people who doubt my son’s abilities to your blog in hopes that they will presume competence when interacting with my son. You are making a difference daily in our lives. Knowledge is power and you are allowing me to teach people the things you are teaching me. Thank you.

  21. A great reminder we need to focus on the ability not just the disability. Thanks you (and Emma) for sharing.

  22. Thank you to all who have commented.
    Emma and I read everyone’s comments just now and Emma wrote, “It is worthy knowing words chosen slowly, help many. Calm appreciation tickles the heart.”
    Adding my thanks to Emma’s. I am grateful to all of you. Together we can make change happen, one parent, one child at a time.

  23. +1 following and learning from Emma
    +1 helping to make a change

    For many years, my efforts as an educator were dissonantly orchestrated by a lifetime of misinformation. My beliefs were terribly influenced by the supposed experts on autism. From the ABA-injecting academic institutions urging me to presume incompetence to the Autism Speaks steam engine advocating for a cure, it’s no wonder that autism is so misunderstood by the public and its educators. I remember the first book I was recommended to read: Let Me Hear Your Voice. That book has long since been thrown in the recycling bin in hopes it will one day be reincarnated as Let Me Read Your Words. It’s amazing how quickly all of the utter falsities regarding autism (in this case, 4 years of undergraduate psychology courses and 7 years of graduate-level special education courses) can be eradicated by reading the right person’s words (in this case, Emma’s); on the other hand, it’s devastatingly sad that educators must endure (let alone pay for) those countless hours of being spoon-fed toxicants in order to get licensed. Thanks to you, Emma, and all of the autistic individuals (whom I’ve come to appreciate as the real experts) who’ve chosen to share their words, I’ve flushed the toxins from my system and am now harmoniously marching to the beat of a different drummer. You have, without a doubt, inspired me make the personal and professional changes as an educator that were so greatly needed. For this and for all the joy you bring to my life, I am dedicated to paying this forward and helping others to make a change.

    Forever grateful,

    “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away” – Henry David Thoreau

    • Oh how I wish I’d never read that book. It was the first of a long list of mistakes!
      You are so right, Joe, the way people who are entering the field are educated and the information they’re given is so wrong. Parents tend to be much more open to the idea of presuming competence in their children than those who’ve spent years and even decades working in the field. The ingrained ableism runs deep. Even the most well intentioned often do not realize they have bought into an idea that has been proven false. Presuming competence is essential, but sadly it is the opposite that we see repeated.
      Glad you are doing all that you do!

  24. She is so right. She observed that so early in her life. It is extremely hard to change anyone’s opinion and the change can happen ever so gradually until something clicks.

  25. Emma, you’ve given me so many gifts that I know are slowly helping my son become exactly who he is. Perhaps the most important has been recognizing his many tremendous joys, and just allowing him to fully experience them, and joining in his joy of them. So grateful to you and your mom.

  26. Emma: You’re already a wonderful advocate for change, and I suspect that you’re only going to get better at it as time goes on. Yay you!

    Ariane and Emma: I do Social Thinking (which is a group focused on teaching adult autistics in St. John’s, NL, about how NT people tend to communicate, and giving us hints and clues about how we can better communicate with them in turn, as well as understand them better – things like body language and the like) on Saturdays. (I already know a fair bit of what they’re teaching us from various different sources, but not all of it, and I’ve not really put things together the way we’re learning to in the course.) Anyway, my point is, my mother drives me and picks me up, due to there not really being a good bus link between my parents’ house (where I spend the weekends) and the Autism Society, and the weather here in St. John’s is not the best during the spring (and it’s spring until mid-June here). But because she also has a walking group on Saturdays, I get out of Social Thinking about 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour before she picks me up. I tend to spend the time in the ASNL library, which is also currently the office of the Outreach Co-ordinator.

    The point is, the two of us were talking, and I mentioned this blog as an excellent resource for parents, and a bit about your journey, Ariane, and how your parents discovered your competence, Emma. He popped over to visit the site while I was with him, and read through this post, the transformations post, and the post about Emma discussing “The Tyger”. He was quite taken with your insightful comments on “The Tyger”, especially your last one about how the worst evil isn’t the obvious, but tends to disguise itself, Emma. (In fact, “insightful” is the term he used to describe you when he finished reading that post.)

    I just thought that the two of you would like to know that. The Outreach Coordinator of the ASNL tends to presume competence himself, and he’s taught autistic children, but I figured it’s still nice to know that you can impress people who are familiar with presuming competence and that non-verbal autistics are hardly “low functioning”.

    (As for me, I agree about your insight, Emma – I’ve described you numerous times as having “the soul of an old philosopher”, which I believe is a paraphrase of either your father’s description or that of one of your other commenters. And “The Tyger” happens to be one of my favourite poems, simply because I love felines of all shapes and sizes, including the big cats. 🙂 )

    😉 tagAught

  27. I can relate to what Emma said even though I have Cerebral Palsy and not Autism people see me doing things and still don’t believe I can do them someone once complimented me on how well I spoke English I didn’t know what to say to that.

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