Last week during Emma’s RPM session with B. they discussed interviews, the act of interviewing another person and the reasons one might interview another: for jobs, schools, etc. They discussed where an interview might take place, one on one and in person, a group interview, by telephone, over email, etc. I don’t have Emma’s permission to write about the interview she then conducted with an imaginary person, but as a result of all of this, I decided to continue with this idea of an interview in our session at home. So I asked Emma whether she wanted to be the interviewer or the one being interviewed.
Emma wrote, “I want to know what you think about autism and am curious to understand why wasted time is spent being against a way of thinking.” Later she added to that last part, “and being.” So the sentence read, “I want to know what you think about autism and am curious to understand why wasted time is spent being against a way of thinking and being.”
Whew. Talk about a great question! I told her that I believed there was so much more we do not know than we know about all neurology. I mentioned that with Autistic neurology in particular, there is a tendency to state as fact a great deal that is not fact, but is really an opinion. I told her that her writing has so completely changed my thinking about not just her, but autism in general. I talked about how people fear what they do not understand, how they make up stories and confuse ideas and opinions as facts. I discussed how assumptions are made because people like to believe they know things, even when they don’t and how people would rather believe something that isn’t true than sit with the discomfort that can come with not knowing.
And then I asked her if she wanted to know what other people thought about her question, or was this a question specifically for me?
Emma wrote that she would like to know what others think.
So I’m throwing it out to all of you… think of this as Emma’s first interview question to you.
“I want to know what you think about autism and am curious to understand why wasted time is spent being against a way of thinking and being.”
Emma’s “Eyes and I” project
The other day during our session about the Middle East (this post is not about the Middle East) I mentioned to Emma that I’d recently read a memoir, I am Malala written by Malala Yousafzai. Malala is Pakistani and was shot by the Taliban when she was just 15 years old because she wanted to be able to go to school and have an education. Emma then wrote, “Was she alive after they shot her?”
It was all I could do not to jump up and down with exuberant glee that Emma wrote me this question. It wasn’t the specifics of the question that made me so excited, it was that it was a question at all. You see, Emma has never asked me a question like this before. This is the sort of question she regularly asks Soma, but not me. In fact, I just wrote about exactly this, a few weeks ago while Emma and I were visiting Soma. You can read that post ‘here‘. The question Emma asked is the sort of question I’ve barely dared hope for. It is the kind of question most people take completely for granted. Asking a question like this is the beginning of a conversation. It requires a different kind of thought process than answering does. It requires initiating a line of thinking. It is the beginning of a back and forth that we talkers do not often contemplate, but do without thinking.
I know Emma has many questions just like this one, but she is not able to easily communicate them. This is different from in the past when I was caught in that great abyss of believing that because she didn’t ask questions, she wasn’t interested. That old way of thinking was so detrimental to her and to our relationship. The belief that things were not being expressed because they did not exist was so destructive, not just to Emma, her self esteem and growth, but to all of our interactions. Instead, this was a moment of celebration. A moment when I just sat in utter admiration of my daughter.
Presuming competence. Those two words hold so much meaning within them. Every day I make tiny inroads, little steps forward in presuming competence, going just a little further in my ability to stretch my thinking so that I am embracing this concept just a bit more. And as I do my daughter is showing me over and over that I have still farther to go. This process is one of such joy, wonder and unbridled excitement. My husband, Richard and I discuss this all the time. How fortunate are we that we have the opportunity to expand our awareness on a daily basis? How exciting is it that we are in a process of constantly re-evaluating what we think we know?
“Was she alive after they shot her?” Emma asked.
“Yes! She lived and now has written this book,” I answered, showing her the cover. “Should we read it together?”
“Yes,” Emma replied.
Em with her string!
Posted in Autism, communication, Parenting
Tagged asking questions, Autism, autism & parenting, autistic, communication, I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai, non-speaking, presume competence, questions, Rapid Prompting Method, RPM, Soma Mukhopadhyay
“Did you see the Grammy’s?” Emma asked Soma yesterday.
And as I sat nearby watching, I marveled at how surprised I was by this question. In part because she was asking a question, something Emma does a great deal of when she is working with Soma, but not so much with me yet. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that…
My surprise was not just limited to the fact that she was asking a question though, it was also because I often wonder how she knows all the things she knows. “The Grammy’s?” I found myself thinking. “How does she even know about the Grammy’s? Where did she see anything about the Grammy’s?” “Richard and I didn’t watch the Grammy’s. I can’t even tell you when the Grammy’s were.
After Soma told Emma that she had watched the Grammy’s, Soma asked Emma where she’d seen them.
Emma wrote, “At the airport TV.”
The airport TV? Seriously? I didn’t even see a television, let alone notice what was on. When we arrived at the airport we checked our bag, went through security and went looking for our gate, and when we finally found it, I don’t remember seeing a television anywhere near the seats we finally found to wait for our flight. What else has she seen in passing? What else would she like to know about? What things would she be interested in learning about?
I write all of this, because Richard and I often ask each other, “But where did she learn that?” or “How does she know about that?” And, well… this is, but one answer. There is information everywhere and my daughter is picking up information all the time.
I used to assume there was an input issue with learning, but my daughter continues to defy this idea. An output issue? Yes. Input? Evidently that’s my issue, not hers.
*Emma has given me permission to publish this on the blog.
Emma ~ January 29th, 2014
Posted in Autism, communication, Parenting
Tagged asking questions, assumptions, Autism, autism myths, autistic, communication, Grammy's, knowledge, Parenting, presume competence, questions