Susan's Blog

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Pressure of Connecting

I know I’m kind of obsessed with Nat, with figuring him out and expressing my feelings about him. I’m so glad to have a blog, so I can get it out, tease it apart. When I get sick of being a blogger, but I want to write, Ned asks why I don’t just write it for myself; why do I have to publish it on the Internet?

Because it wouldn’t feel as real to me. The stuff I write that I don’t show anyone — that stuff feels stupid, half-assed. As I write this I’m wondering if this one will fall flat. But I don’t think so, because I have that feeling that there’s a pull in here somewhere.

I need to say my thoughts out loud — in this case, onscreen. But when I can’t write, I talk to myself. Especially in my car. That’s when I figure a lot of things out, driving to some dumb place or another. It isn’t enough just to think it: I have to say it.

So I wonder if it’s the same for Nat, the way he talks to himself in his own language of stretched out or half-swallowed English. Does he have to hear it out loud? Does the out loud make him feel more here? Less lonely? What is Nat’s usual state like? He moves from room to room, bed to couch to chair, and then maybe perches on top of our coffee table. He makes his sounds, very high-pitched and then low. Suddenly there will be a word I recognize, and I often jump in and nab it. Sometimes he likes it when I do that, sometimes he doesn’t.

I think that he doesn’t like it when there is an expectation that he respond a certain way. I think at those times he does not want the hand offered to him. He wants his words out there, and just out there, moving forever outward into space. I, on the other hand, need to throw my words outward like fishing line, hoping they’ll catch and bring me something lovely.

In this way we are very different, Nat and I.

This dynamic played out in two different ways today. This afternoon I told him that his one-on-one wasn’t coming. He said, “Heeyah John.”

I said, “You’re thinking about John.”

He said, “No.”

I said, “But you said ‘John!'”

“No-oo.”  And he put his hands over his ears.  I thought I’d upset him, but then he started laughing, jumped up, and left the room happy.

At dinner tonight Ned started talking about how he was going out to a Django meetup.  “When will you be home?” I asked.

Nat picked his head up from staring at his food and said to us, “Yes, Daddy will be home.”  To me, this meant: “I’m anxious (or curious) about you going out. That’s different from our usual.”

“Well, Daddy’s going out now, but he’ll be back at 9,” I rushed to explain.

“Yes,” Nat said. And then, “heeyah home.”

Okay, he said “home.” But I remembered this afternoon and I didn’t want to pop this sweet bubble, this moment of mutual understanding encased in the most fragile of membranes.  So I said as quietly as possible, “Yes, he’ll be home at 9.” I didn’t look at him for long, and I did not ask it. I did not put it to him with any expectation or bridge to me. All I did was blow out a gentle reassurance of the temporary quality of this break in the routine.

And he looked at me nervously, knowing what I was doing.  Without my expectant sentence swinging upward on its last words, hanging heavily in expectation of him, he was okay with my understanding him and repeating it. Because it was not too much pressure on him, the pressure of connecting, he could simply answer: “Yes.” It makes sense to me. In a world that judges your intelligence by how well you spew words, it must feel awfully threatening to be on the spot if your words lay hidden from you.


I like this – this is very insightful. Also I am just like you about having to write something and publish it or say it out loud. I guess that must mean we are very verbal thinkers. Only I do it more on Facebook than my blog. But I love your blogs, never stop.

— added by Kate on Friday, December 16, 2011 at 1:32 am

I welcome any “front-line” experiences with accounts of the language of autism. Have you read:

Communication Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome: do we speak the same language? by Olga Bogdashina?

Bogdashina is a linguistics professor with a masters in special education and a son on the Spectrum. This book and Bogdashina’s other works are my research keys into how to teach language to my son. (I am by trade a foreign-language teacher who has adapted the theories and methods I used in the ESL classroom to create an effective language-acquistion experience for my son).

I agree with you, it’s all about the processing. Finding strategies to help the student be kind and patient with himself, despite everything, to buy time to find his own meaning of our “foreign” words without forcing our meaning on him.

— added by Sarah on Friday, December 16, 2011 at 7:44 am

Jeremy has learned to tolerate up to about three questions in a row asked of him, giving space in between for a response(usually a one word answer). After that, he starts to block us out with noises, animal sounds, repetative phrases, words etc. His processing system just can’t handle anymore at that moment. I give him credit for working as hard as he does to be verbal and social. I try not to take it personally or get sad about it. I will always keep prodding to get him to tolerate more interaction. I do believe they hear everything, and that this is an expressive problem…so keep that in mind with Nat…he hears you, and I bet he understands as well. This is a social and communication disorder…not as much a cognitive disorder, as many would like to think. Keep seeking out the answers, Susan. Take comfort in knowing that we are too.

— added by Candy on Friday, December 16, 2011 at 10:20 am

Sometimes I wonder if my twins’ constant singing is a way to keep people from talking to them. They can’t answer questions yet, and I think almost anything someone says to them feels like pressure.

— added by Alice on Friday, December 16, 2011 at 3:10 pm

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