Tag Archives: being present

Thoughts On Thinking

Friday evening I asked Emma whether she wanted to use the laminated letter board or a qwerty, bluetooth keyboard connected to the iPad.  She told me she wanted to write using the keyboard.  Emma has written on the keyboard during her RPM sessions with B., but this is not something I’ve attempted.  I have been reluctant to use the keyboard because Emma has done so well using the laminated letter board with me and I’m always worried about changing something that’s working well.  But when using the letter board I have to transcribe as she writes or hope that I’ll remember what she’s written, whereas with the keyboard it automatically types directly onto a document within the iPad.  Often I can’t remember what she’s written, or think I have remembered correctly, only to find out later I did not.

This was the case Wednesday night when Emma wrote in front of an audience at CoNGO.  I hadn’t stopped to transcribe her words as she wrote them, thinking I’d be able to remember, but once she’d finished the sentence, I couldn’t remember.  Afterward, when we thought we hadn’t recorded our presentation, I tried to remember what I thought she’d said – “Autism is not what parents want to hear, but I hope that will change as more people meet someone like me.”  What she actually wrote, once we found the video recording, I was disconcerted to learn, was – “Autism is not what parents want to hear, but I hope that will change as more people get to know someone like me.”  That is a subtle, yet significant difference.  I’m so sorry Emma for getting your words wrong.

Our goal has always been for Emma to write on a keyboard and eventually be able to write with the keyboard resting on the table, so that no one need hold it.  That she wrote both Friday evening and over the weekend on the keyboard is a huge leap forward and very exciting!!

So.  Friday evening Richard asked Emma for permission to ask her a few questions about thinking.  Now for those of you who know Richard, you will smile as you know this topic is one of his favorites.  He loves nothing more than to read and discuss thinking, consciousness, dreams, reality, and anything remotely related.  These are the topics Richard explores in his writing and the things he is fascinated with.  Richard wrote on Emma’s Hope Book FaceBook page – I “think” of “thinking” as my constantly chattering internal dialog.  I have long suspected that Emma has either NO internal dialog, or very little, and that what she “thinks” of as “thinking” must be very different from what I “think.”

Emma generously agreed to allow her dad to ask her a few questions though she did remind him that she had the timer on.

*I need to interject here that the following conversation is representative of Richard’s “thinking” and Emma’s as she describes it.  No one is suggesting that ALL people, either autistic or non autistic think as either of them do.  It would be a mistake to assume Richard is somehow representative of ALL non autistic people, though many may relate, or that Emma is representative of ALL Autistic people.

Richard:  Mom and I have this internal dialog going on all the time and that’s what we call “thinking”. How does this differ from the way you think?

Emma: I only think in voices when I am working with you (Ariane).

Ariane: Is this also true when you write with others?

Emma: Yes.

Richard: Do you see our internal dialog as an advantage or disadvantage compared to your own way of thinking?

Emma: It is more distracting than the way I think.

Richard: Tell us more about how you think. If it’s not with an internal dialogue, what is it like?

Emma: Know that I am almost always happy and take great pleasure in sounds, color, fabric.  Everything in life is beautiful if you are able to be here.

*Whoa!  “Everything in life is beautiful if you are able to be here.”  

Richard: I’m so used to thinking with an internal dialogue. It’s hard to imagine thinking without talking to myself.

Emma: Have you felt this always?

Richard: When I was a kid I didn’t talk to myself all the time. I was probably a lot happier. As I grew older, my internal dialog became stronger and now it’s there most of the time. I have to meditate or concentrate to temper it.

Emma: It’s too bad that you have difficulty.

Richard and I looked at each other and shook our heads in amazement.  Then Emma began to laugh and we joined her.

*The keyboard we are using is a Kensington Keyboard.

**A brief update on Emma and Ari Ne’eman’s presentation at CoNGO last week that we video taped, thought we hadn’t then found we had.  We have not had time to upload it and we haven’t received approval from Ari yet, so it may take a few more days before we can post all or part of it here.  Bear with us.

Emma types on a qwerty keyboard

Emma types on a qwerty keyboard

When Insights are Speculation

One of the things I’ve felt particularly confused by is why my daughter sometimes resists communicating.  My thinking has been – why would she resist doing the one thing that will help her get along in this world more than perhaps anything else?  The other day, I had a moment of clarity.  I came a step closer to “getting it”.  And now, I think I understand.  Not only do I think I understand, but I am able to identify and relate to that resistance, because, I realized, I do it too!  There are a number of things I resist doing, even while knowing that if I just did them I’d feel better and would be able to weather the vicissitudes of daily life a bit better.  I’d be happier, calmer, less anxious, and yet knowing this, intellectually understanding that this is true, does not make my resistance any less.

know being mindful and in the present gives me clarity and a sense of calm, I do not otherwise have.  I know this, and yet find it extremely difficult to be completely present for more than moments at a time.  My daughter has little problem with this.  In fact, Emma is far more comfortable in the moment than anywhere else.  I remember when we were inundated with therapists coming and going during those early years of fear and panic.  Richard and I used to comment on the irony that Emma was completely present and in the here and now far more easily than we were and yet we were constantly encouraging her to talk about tomorrow or yesterday or any number of other topics that had little to do with NOW.    We were pushing her to move away from the bliss of this moment to join us in the fear and anxiety of the non-present moment, all for the sake of the larger picture, which in our minds was to have her join us in our world.  Even though our world was fraught with expectations, hopes, dreams, wishes and the inevitable disappointment those things often bring.

We used to joke that if we could bottle what Emma came to naturally we would have no cause for worry.  And that really is the crux of most conversations.  They are usually not about the here and now.  They are almost always about some other time, some other idea, some other person, some other concern that is not now.  And yet…  

I resist being in the present and Emma resists being pulled out of it.   And yet, we non-Autistics continue to insist our world is better, or superior even as many spend thousands of dollars going on spiritual retreats, reading books about meditation and going to workshops to teach us how to “sit”.  So the question I am now asking myself is this:  Can I find the grey area of encouraging Emma to communicate with me, something that is difficult for her and pulls her from the bliss of now, while giving her plenty of time to be present and just be?  And what about my own resistance?  Can I learn to meet Emma in her blissful place of now and resist the urge to go off in my mind to somewhere else?

Of course there’s always a danger in interpreting my daughter’s behavior as any one thing.  Her resistance, like mine, is probably made up of many things, and this could be just one reason.  Or I may have this entirely wrong and her resistance is about something that hasn’t even occurred to me.  Or perhaps it isn’t resistance at all and is something else or I may find, next time we type together and when I ask her why, she will tell me something I hadn’t considered.  And that’s the beauty of all of this, I can’t and don’t know until she tells me.  Until then it’s just speculation and me projecting my stuff onto her.   So that’s more for me to be aware of – seeing when and if I do that and understanding that I am.

Henry and I sharing a moment of laughter at Emma’s antics

H & A

The Magic of This Moment

Early this morning:

Nic: I’m late!  Gotta go Mom.

Me:  Okay,  babe.  Have a great day!

Nic:  I love you.

Me:  Love you!  Bye babe.

Emma:  Love you, Nicky..

Nic:  I love you Em.

Emma:  Bye bye

Just another typical conversation, right?

Um no.  No.  Not at all.  Nothing typical about it.  This.  This is why I don’t envy any other family, this is what I treasure about MY family.  This is exactly why, this conversation, this seemingly common, innocent, no-big-deal conversation…. yeah.  Because this conversation has never been uttered before until this morning.  And weirdly Nic and I were talking just five minutes before, while the three of us had breakfast about the importance and magic of being present.  We were discussing how this moment, right now, this second will never be repeated.  We may have moments like it, but this one?  Nope.  Never again.

And as we were talking about all of this, Nic interrupted me and we had the above conversation, the one I’ve just transcribed.  It may seem un-noteworthy to many of you, you may be thinking, so what?  Or who cares?  But to me, this conversation that other families have, perhaps on a daily basis and don’t think twice about, they are little nuggets of pure gold because these moments with my children are gifts, each one of them, pure gifts that I am so lucky to have.

In Buddhism there is emphasis on being present and practice and it isn’t easy.  It’s  a simple concept, but definitely not easy for most of us to actually do.  And yet, when I am able to really show up for this moment the joy is beyond description.

I will leave you with one more snippet.

Later this morning as Em and I walked toward her school, we stopped at a red light.  As we waited she linked her arm through mine.  Not a single word was exchanged.  We waited, a mother and daughter, side by side for the light to turn green and once it did we made our way to the entrance to her school.  As Emma entered the gymnasium where the children and teachers were waiting, one of Em’s classmates called out, “It’s Emma.  Yay!  It’s Emma.  LOOK!  Look!  It’s a cupcake, I love cupcakes!”

And Em looked back at me and grinned before running to greet her friend.

The Cupcake Hat