Pages

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Rev's Family Expressions of PosAutivity: #AutismPositivity2014

I'm taking part in the 2014 Flash Blog of Autism Positivity.

This is, as it says on the tin, a day at the end of a month of "autism awareness" (which, though well-meant, can very often spread depressing and downright damaging views of autism) when hundreds of bloggers come together to write positively about autism and autistic people.

This year's theme is communication: "This year we hope to highlight the importance of flexibility in communication within our diverse community and honour multiple forms of personal expression" (official guidelines)

*****

Language is not Abigail's first language.  She is doing ever so well at it, but it doesn't come naturally.  She speaks, as TheRev puts it, like somebody using a phrase book: echoes from television, bedtime stories and overheard conversation are all stored in her extraordinary library of a mind, where they are broken down, mixed up and carefully chosen for use in every conversation.  She takes comfort in scripts and songs which are the same every time.

She started to learn language in echoes of full sentences and phrases.  If she's learned that a phrase is an acceptable answer to a question (because it was true the first time) then it becomes the answer to that question every time: for a while, the answer to the question "Why is s/he crying" was always "Because my hitted him" even if it was a character in a book!   Sometimes, a word selection accidentally triggers an echo, meaning that her reply to your question isn't at all what she meant to say.  Sometimes she accidentally does it to herself: "I'm going to turn the page" she announced to me, before turning off the light.

The way she listens and speaks may make communication difficult sometimes, but at other times it's like living with a tiny unintentional poet, a walking box of connections and combinations all sparking and hissing and flashing at once.

Rather than try to describe it any further, I'm going to make a list of quotations from my journal that will hopefully give you some idea, both of how incredibly quickly she's learning, and of the amazing things that can by done with words by a child for whom language is not her first language.

30/05/13
Tiffer says, in conversation, that he thinks something is less important.  Abi shouts: "It's not less important, it's FULL OF PORRIDGE!"

2/10/13 Abi's response to being asked what she did at nursery today: "I just played happily.  Then I done a song about the sleeping butterflies.  I think butterflies do sleep on something, it's just a pillow and a blanket and all the way back to bed, and then they go in a wirrelbarrel all the way home".

15/10/13
"I have an idea, how about we can play instead?  It's playtime, that why we can play, and the time is play."  (Actually, it was bedtime!)

29/10/13
Abi's response to my reaction upon discovering that she had drawn in orange highlighter on our hosts' pillowcase: "Don't worry Mummy.  It's not the matter.  It's GREAT!"

25/11/13
Me: Abi, we need to change your trousers, those are too small.
Her: No, those are too fine, they are just my same.

25/01/14
Abi is very interested that I am eating chocolate.  "Have you beened a GOOD Mummy?"

11/02/14
Me: What does an angel say, Abi?  (This is a script that we've been doing together since before Christmas, and the answer has always been "Don't be afraid, I've got good news for you", which comes from a favourite Christmas song on video).
Her: Don't be afraid. I got something in my pocket to good news you. 

19/03/14
Mummy, are you feeling better, or are you properly poorly?

1/04/14
Me: Abi, please put that magazine into my bag now.
Her: No, I won't do that.  Putting in bags is not good for magazines.

4 comments:

Rachael said...

"She is doing ever so well at it, but it doesn't come naturally. She speaks, as TheRev puts it, like somebody using a phrase book: echoes from television, bedtime stories and overheard conversation are all stored in her extraordinary library of a mind, where they are broken down, mixed up and carefully chosen for use in every conversation. She takes comfort in scripts and songs which are the same every time."

Is that not universal, then>? Because that sounds like a very good description of Bethany. She also does the "if a phrase is an acceptable answer to a question then it becomes the answer to that question every time" thing.

A(me) said...

My understanding of it, after reading and talking to the speech therapist, is that children conventionally learn and use single words first, then build them into sentences. This is what Jeremy has done: first "juice" then "want x" then "want juice" and now "Mummy get apple juice, Thomas cup!"

Whereas Abi started with echoes of phrases in which she doesn't necessarily understand every word, using the whole thing (maybe, for the sake of the example, she would at first have said "Do you want milk?" instead of just saying "juice", because she would have been echoing the last phrase she heard when she was given a cup). These days, she is able to break the phrases down, distinguishing the bit of the sentence that means "I want" and the bit that names the drink. But that's the opposite way round to typical language learning.

Having said all that, I have also heard that all toddlers have an echolalic phase in their language learning; it's just that it goes by so fast you barely notice it. Jeremy does a lot of copying, but doesn't remember entire phrases to use again the next time the subject comes up.

Mdivgirl said...

It's like she's taking the road less traveled, but her communication seems to be coming along quite well. It does remind me of a second language learner. I used to teach the nursery level of a children's Bible memory program at church. Since we got the 3-4's who hadn't been to school yet, for the most part, their intro book taught the the Pledge of Allegience to the flag right along with John 3:16. Most of the kids were actually from a local Chinese church and spoke Chinese at home so they were pretty shaky in English. I will never forget one little girl's triumphant recitation that went something like, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, with liberty and justice for all." Gotta ask Stephen about the theological implications of that one, though it does just about work.

includedbygrace said...

I love how you have recorded your daughter's language attempts and it shows how really clever she is at using and interpreting a language that is not her primary mode of communication. I wish more people would just LISTEN and see the effort and success that children with autism have in communicating through language / speech when they have put so much more effort into it than many of us! Do keep sharing
Lynn