Susan's Blog

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

No Longer in the Dark

I gave the New Yorker the opportunity to publish a wonderful, moving bit of poetry, but they turned it down. I now give it to you, though it is not truly mine to give. I recorded these unintentionally poetic words uttered by Nat when he was about to turn five (eleven years ago). I came across them again recently. I now know that this was the beginning of his self-stimulatory talk, a common feature of autism, and something that was a huge struggle in our lives for the longest time. I eventually learned what self-stim talk means to Nat (it is a great source of comfort to him and I believe helps calm him and organize his thoughts) so I no longer cringe at the “silly talk” (his name for it). I cringe when other parents talk about getting rid of their children’s self-stim talk because I both understand their heartache and struggle, and wish that they knew what I know. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant. I just wish that we parents could learn faster and earlier just who our kids are and love them as they are. There is, of course, a thin line between loving them as they are, giving them the skills to help them succeed and thrive — and trying to shape and change them into something they’re not.

Anyway, I was and still am struck by the simple beauty, rhythm and emotional content of his words. If I had extinguished Nat’s silly talk when it first emerged, I would never have heard this haunting poem.

I call it “Dark.”

By Nat Batchelder, age 5

Stop crying,
No crying in the dark.
Settle down, stop.
No running away
And stop running away.
No crying
You better stop,
You better stop crying.


Terrific poem. Our son Matthew, now five soon to be six, has been doing this for a while. He often speaks both sides of a conversation but “mashes” multiple conversations together in odd ways. It’s definitely a comfort to him. Sometimes it seems like it’s more than just self-simulation — it seems like he needs to express externally what he’s feeling inside.

— added by Bob on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 at 7:14 pm

I love it. Billy Ray self talks discipline for himself a lot. He doesn’t allow follow his own advice but sometimes he does.

Peggy Lou Morgan

— added by Peggy Lou Morgan on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 at 1:44 am

One of the nice things about blogs is that we can bypass the guardians of style and content and see what real people say and think. When the folks at the New Yorker select things for publication they invariably filter things based on their bias and their assumed bias of their readers. It’s no wonder poetry in general has fallen from favor. Perhaps in this new world we will get to hear more original voices like Nat’s where we are less concerned with style and more taken with the truth and beauty of an individual’s unique thoughts.

— added by Pete Lyons on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 at 10:01 pm