Tag Archives: conversations

Ideas, Insights and Discovery

This morning I had an idea, which turned out to be something I thought was a good idea, only to find that what might seem like a good idea to me, is not necessarily a good idea to my daughter, and the reasons why were not something that ever occurred to me.

I am continually surprised by the insights Emma, so patiently, gives me and am reminded again and again that my assumptions limit my views.  Thank you Emma for giving me permission to post our conversation.

Ariane:  I thought we could begin the day by discussing who you might like to interview and about what topic?

Emma:  Is the way here, thinking, knowing, and asking about another, helpful?

Ariane:  I think it’s interesting and certainly can be helpful to get to know other people’s experiences of life.  Asking is a great way to understand another’s perspective.  Who would you like to interview?

Emma: Using questions to sing truths meaningfully speaks to all.

Ariane:  That’s so true!  Music is a universal language that can transcend words.

Emma:  What did those we cannot ask, say?

Ariane:  Who are you thinking of, Emma?

Emma:  Those who cannot speak and have no one who believes in their ability to communicate in other ways.

Ariane:  Here’s the thing though, we can ask.  We may not get an answer we understand, but we can still ask and I think that’s the beginning, right?  We ask anyway and then do everything we can to understand the answer, even if it’s not in spoken language or in ways we understand at first.

Emma:  Understanding that all human beings want connection is natural and fundamentally human.

Ariane:  I agree.  So Em, what was it like before you were able to type?

Emma:  Days bloated with tears, frustration, anxiety and raging questions that only made daily living harder.

Ariane:  Ah…  can you tell me more?

Emma:  Thinking and wanting to ask questions, but knowing the words would come out wrong was too painful, best to silence asking than to be in the smothering feelings of tremendous frustration.

Ariane:  I imagine interviewing someone must be hard, even now that you can type.  Would you say that’s true?

Emma:  Sometimes ease is not an option.

Ariane:  You do not need to ask any questions unless you choose to, Emma, I wasn’t considering any of this when I first introduced the idea.  I’m sorry.  What else should we do right now?

Emma:  How about a conversation using music and no words?

Ariane:  Great idea!

Some of the instruments Emma chose for us to use in our "conversation."

Some of the instruments Emma chose for us to use in our “conversation.”

Asking Emma

Imagine for a moment if you had an idea.  It was an idea that was in keeping with a conversation taking place by others in the same room as you, but when you opened your mouth to share your thought, instead of using words that would convey what you were thinking you said something that sounded like, “Peacock!”  Not only did you say “Peacock!” but your voice was loud, some would suggest you were shouting, even though you hadn’t meant to shout, even though you weren’t thinking of a peacock, that was the sound that came from your mouth.

Now imagine that, in addition to this, you smiled and maybe laughed too.  Maybe you laughed because as you said what sounded like “peacock” you were also hit with a memory of a time that was funny, or maybe saying those two syllables made you happy, maybe the act of saying them made you laugh, or maybe you laughed, but nothing struck you as funny, the laughter was merely a response to anxiety or maybe it wasn’t any of these things.  Maybe the laughter just escaped from your mouth, unbidden.

Whatever the “truth”is about why the person suddenly shouts what sounds like “peacock!” and then laughs, while others are having a conversation about global warming or are discussing their concerns with a project they’re working on or are talking to each other about what to have for dinner, they are unlikely to assume the peacock shouter is listening to their conversation, much less that they have anything relevant to add.  In fact, the people having the conversation may regard this outburst as an intrusion, or an unwelcome distraction.  Or maybe they don’t, instead they stop their conversation and smile, or laugh and say something like, “is that funny?”  “Are you thinking of something funny?” or “Oh!  Do you like peacocks?” and when all of this is met with silence or some other utterance unrelated to both peacocks and the conversation they were having, they continue  with what they were saying to the other person.

Richard is good about saying to me, “we should ask Emma” or “Emma, what do you think?” or “Let’s find out if Emma has anything to add” or just turning to Emma and saying, “Hey Em, we’re talking about _____.”  Including Emma in our conversations is not something we regularly did.  It’s not that we never did, it just wasn’t something we regularly did.  Including Emma in conversations was not something we once considered doing, not because we didn’t want to, but because it didn’t occur to us that she was listening and understanding, much less had something she might like to add.  This is where her being able to write her thoughts has changed everything.

Once we began presuming her competent we began including her, but as she didn’t have a way to express herself, the – “do you have something you want to add? or so what do you think?” questions were not asked of her.  But once she began writing, all bets were off.  Suddenly and quite dramatically her words propelled me to reconsider even more what I’d once thought.  All of my assumptions, all those misunderstandings, I now view differently.  Now when Emma shouts, “peacock” I do not assume she is interested in talking about the colorful bird.  She may be, but she may not be.  But and this is a big but, I’m able to ask her and she is able to reply.

Emma has written often that the words that come out of her mouth do not always reflect her thoughts.  I used to think that whatever she said out loud, was indicative of what she was capable of and, in addition, was what she intended to say.  My misunderstanding of what was going on for her made for a great many misunderstandings.  Had Emma not found a way to communicate, had she not found a way to write what she knows, thinks and feels, many people would not question that her spoken language is representative of her mind.  They would not be able to believe that she has the complex and brilliantly observant mind that she has.  For most people this is a very difficult concept to fully grasp.  It has taken me daily exposure to such a mind to begin to stop making incorrect assumptions about not just my daughter, but all people I meet who do not speak or whose language is not an accurate reflection of their thoughts.



The Beauty in a Conversation

Emma and I are heading out to Fire Island this afternoon with my friend, Bobbie.  This has been cause for great excitement as Emma has counted the days until we leave.  Last night, Emma and I had the following conversation.

Emma:  Go to take Bobbie at the beach!

Me:  Yeah.  Are you excited?

Em:  Yeah!  So excited to see Bobbie and Mina and Luca.  Going to go in the ocean.

Me:  Yup, we can go swimming and…

Em:  (interrupting) Going to go play in the sand.

Me:  Yes.  We’re going to spend the night.  We’re going to spend two nights there.

Em:  (Holding up her fingers) Three minus one equals two!  Having a sleepover with Bobbie at the beach.  Going to bring Cokie!  (Cokie is a scrap of what was once a blanket, measuring about five by three inches and is constantly getting lost leading Emma to panic.  We live in dread of this last large scrap one day mysteriously disappearing into the great dark unknown along with the rest of her blanket.)

Me:  But Cokie has to stay in your bedroom.

Em:  Cokie get lost!  Ahhhhh!  Who took it?  Somebody threw it away.  They threw it.  You cannot throw Cokie.  (All of this was said very quickly in an animated voice, it’s a kind of scripting, but it’s within a context in that Emma is expressing her fears and anxiety that her blanket might get mislaid.)  No, not going to bring Cokie into the water.  You can’t bring Cokie onto the beach, that’s silly.  Cokie might get lost!  Cokie will get dirty.  Ick!  Cokie has to take a bath!

Me:  You’re funny.

Em:  (Laughing)   No.  Not going to put Cokie in the washing machine!  It’s too little.  No, not going to put Max in the washing machine, he’s too big.  Max can’t breath.  You have to pull him out.  That’s too small!

Me:  Do you think we should wash Cokie before we take it to the beach?

Em:  Nah.  Have to gotta go.  Max came to the book party.  You hit Max.  You pull Max’s hair.  No.  You cannot pull Max’s hair.  You have to stop.  You can’t do that.  Max is hurt!  (This is another script, but it’s one she made up and it’s really a spoken memory of Richard’s book party celebrating the publication of his novel a month ago.  Max is a great friend and someone Emma adores.  When Emma really likes someone she wants to pull their hair and hit them.  She is still trying to sort out how to resolve some of these impulses while also connecting and making physical contact with another human being without hurting them.  We are working on this.)

Me:  Yeah.  That’s really hard, isn’t it Em?

Em:  Makes me so frustrated! Grrrrr!

Me:  (Laughing)  Do you feel frustrated now?

Em:  Nah!  Emma’s happy!  Going to go with Bobbie to the beach.  Going to have so much fun!

Just before I had this conversation with Emma, I was talking with my friend Ib.  She said, “It is easy to picture Emma talking more.  She can still be her if she does.  She will talk oddly about odd things that she blisses out about while twirling string, and walk away mid sentence.”

And I wrote back, “Yeah, and I’ll (removed explicative) love that!  Seriously love that!  Because I want to walk away in mid sentence half the time…”  Ib then wrote back “And frankly, in your family, it won’t be that odd.  Hehe.”

Which made me laugh out loud and filled me with so much hope and happiness with the thought that Em and I could converse the way Ib and I do.  And then Emma came home and I told Ib I’d talk to her tomorrow and Emma and I proceeded to have the conversation I’ve transcribed above.

Yup, there are little miracles happening all the time!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!  The journey continues…