Susan's Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How I Talk To My Sons

I learned how to talk to my boys first from my middle son, Max. This is because most of my training took place when Nat was still fairly non-verbal, and Benj was a wee babe.  I remember the moment I first discovered how to do it; it was during the five minute drive to the school in the morning. Max was still young, but he was in the front seat because he was already big enough to be there by the age of 9. He had been talking about Animorphs, a book series where characters can shift into certain animals. Max was telling me about one character who was becoming an animorph, perhaps against his will — something like that. But the real thing he was telling me was that this boy’s situation was incredibly poignant to Max.

As I braked to let him out at the circle, I realized — by his tone of voice, or because the words crystallized differently in the air around us just then — he had revealed something precious to me.  The door opened and Max heaved himself out, and I realized that the way to get him to talk to me about important things was by riding together and talking side-by-side in the car.

With Nat, I’ve learned to apply this in a way unique to him: by pretending not to listen, especially sitting in front of him in the car. While I drive him around, he gets more and more animated, talking to himself about whatever is on his mind. He doesn’t know how I am listening intently, waiting for clues into his day, his thoughts. Hey, or maybe he does!  Anyway, I always love finding out what is important to him, like that time he was saying, “Bay-ag, bay-ag,” and it turned out he was upset that I’d used cloth bags instead of plastic. I don’t think this would have worked out as well if I had been looking at him. My eyes really throw him off.

Ben talks to me directly across the table. There is often some thing between us when we talk. We don’t sit side-by-side anywhere, but we do sit at the table a lot, me drinking coffee or chocolate and him, eating chips and salsa and doing homework. Another way we talk is when he calls me into the playroom to come see something cute on the computer — usually an impossibly tiny baby animal caught innocently eating. And of course with a great caption. He and I never grow tired of Dr. Tinycat or the hamster that says, “I has a corm.”  You’d be surprised how many heated political discussions come up after a look at Good Cat Craig.

Last night at dinner I was up at the counter emptying leftover pasta into Tupperware. Ben and Nat remained at the table, eating the last bits of their noodles. Nat said, “May have salt pepper please.”
And Ben answered, “But of course, my good man.”

So maybe now my sons have finally learned to talk to each other.


I love these stories, my child has Down syndrome so it’s a very different experience, yet there is a common thread in the way that disability requires something additional from us; something that real taps into our humanity, I think.

— added by Lisa Lilienthal on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Awww I love this.I completely relate too, because budget cuts this school year have resulted in doing away with Tara’s bus, so I have had to drive her to and pick her up from school most of the time, which is a half hour away. So that is when I drive, and listen, and I find I know alot more about what is going on with her than I did a few years ago. But my favorite part is when we arrive at her school, and she gets in the car, and Dylan says “Tara, you’re very good today!”, and then she will say something sweet back to him, my kids are learning how to talk to each other as well, and it is music to my ears!

— added by eileen on Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 8:38 am

Isn’t that just the sweetest thing? When Jared absent-mindedly puts his hand on Thomas’ shoulder, and Thomas doesn’t shrug it off, my heart swells. Two minutes later Jared might lick Thomas on the cheek, which drives him BANANAS, so I have come to appreciate the fleeting tender moments. So nice to hear that Ben and Nat are building rapport.

— added by Lisa on Friday, February 3, 2012 at 5:37 pm

My eight-year-old has moderate autism and is non-verbal, but manages to have entire conversations with me just by using his eyes, facial expressions, and gestures. We seem to “get” each other most of the time, and for that I’m extremely grateful. Love to hear the different ways all the Senators communicate with one another!

— added by kim mccafferty on Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Give your son, Ben, a hug from me for his response to Nat. The other day I drove my daughter, middle child, to the movies with my son (diagnosed with ASD) in tow. I was going into the theater lobby to meet the friend. That meant no double parking and dropping off which I do often for ease with my son. Due to the warm weather we had been having and my lack of reading the weather, I did not realize how cold it was. My 14 year old sweet daughter took her brother’s hand and they ran together, holding hands, unto the theater. My son was so caught up with the enjoyment of having run with his sister, being in the theater lobby (and he knows about such things because he has been to movies with me), he was actually sad that he was not staying when I directed him we were leaving. seeing her take his hand to run with him, going in to meet a friend, being far ahead of me that she would have her brother a bit with her friend until I got in and his enjoyment of her love = all touched my heart. I was also convicted I need to get my butt out more with my son and take him to a movie more often because, yet, I am pretty much the only avenue for it and, so what it is a bit or work – that work being dealing with my own discomfort worrying about the others and whether his bouncing in a seat would be too distracting. One day at a time … work included, yet love included too.

— added by Stephanie on Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Hi Susan, I read some of your stories, and they were very inspiring. A lot of the blogs I’ve read on this subject have been very depressing, and yes I do feel very sympathetic for those who are experiencing these hardships. Anyway, I’d like to share a bit about myself, and add more encouragement to those who feel hopeless. I’m almost 30 years old and I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 6. I didn’t think much of it back then, but school and my social life was a bit of a struggle when 4th or 5th grade started. *Fast-forwarding through the drama* things started looking up when High School started, I felt more accepted and was doing better academically, I made some friends and I became more involved in school activities. I graduated and went on to college, first community college, then a four year school. After my fifth year of school I completed my Bachelor of Social Work, sounds crazy, but I wanted to help people as much as I could. Things took a dip when I went after my MSW and hit a few potholes in my second field placement, and ended up losing my place in the program. I was distraught, and was looking for everyone I could think of to blame it on, but I eventually picked myself and looked for another job. Since then I’ve made it a point to become more self aware and to work on reading people and being more empathetic. I applied to work for Child Services in the state whose name you’re not allowed to know. After many years of waiting, I was finally called in for an interview, and I GOT THE JOB! Where the job takes me, I have yet to see, I start with training in a few weeks, but I have done internships in similar situations, and I am determined to do the best job I can in keeping young children safe in their homes.
I have Autism, and I have a college degree,
But I am NOT a rocket scientist,
And I an NOT a zookeeper,
Maybe some day I’ll be able to go back to finish my Masters, or maybe not, we’ll see.
I have a lot of people to thank for helping me get to where I am, but mostly my parents and family, for all the love, support, and encouragement they have given me.
So, instead of pouring over how much you can’t do, look at your not just your strengths, but also how you can turn your weaknesses into strengths. It begins with self awareness, and accepting responsibility for things. You don’t like working with people? Or you do, but you’re not good at it? Just keep doing it! You need people skills to succeed in any job situation. I substitute taught for over 4 years before getting this job. I wasn’t that great at it when I first started, but I got better at it, though I did lose my spot on a few sub lists, but socially I’m way better off than I was years ago. Be willing to step out of your comfort bubble, and get in there and interact with people. You’ll never be able to please everybody, but just turn the page and keep moving!
The keys are: Acceptance of your condition; self-awareness; courage to move out of your comfort zone; practice; and and determination to get where you want to be!
If I can do this, then so can you!!! You are not alone, and neither am I!
Good luck all of you!!!

— added by Hidden due to job security and confidentiality laws on Sunday, May 1, 2016 at 11:30 pm

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