My daughter is autistic…she prefers this way of saying it, because she has owned the various traits that set her apart from neuro-typical folk like myself.
It’s important to acknowledge a person’s right to self-definition, so this is how i say it…
And it’s amazing the intricacy of the distinction…one is a statement of being, one is a diagnosis. No one should be reduced to a diagnosis.
That being said, instead of saying ‘autism presents along a spectrum’, i say autistic persons each have their own unique qualities. Even if some or many of these qualities are held in common with other autistic people, one needn’t consider and entreat them as symptoms, anymore than one would say of neuro-typical folk that they ‘present along a spectrum’ and then begin to define them according to what they can or cannot do.
This post is about how my daughter’s conversations, when she chooses to engage in them, are not dialogues…she, like many other autistic persons, monologues.
There are too way many instances that could i could relate to describe what this monologuing entails, how it differs from dialogue but is communication, no matter how dissimilar it is to the conversations of neuro-typs like myself. But yesterday was a perfect example, so i will tell that story. Then, dear reader, just know that this describes most, if not all, of her conversation.
Yesterday…there was an event for a bunch of homeschooling parents and their kids to attend a bbq, to get to know one another. Most of the kids found their way to places to congregate together, away from the adults. It was no surprise to me that Ziona did not. Instead she did what she usually does, found a place away from the crowd…she may come by that naturally enough, as that is my usual ‘gathering mode’ as well. She usually prefers to hang with the grown-ups, admitting that kids either bore or confuse her, so even tho i had scheduled the event as part of our homeschooling under the heading of social skills, i wasn’t surprised when she found a table full of adults with whom to hang.
What was interesting to watch was how other people responded to a child who didn’t really converse, despite the fact that she was talking. One would ask, “oh, how old are you?” or “what grade are you in?”, she would barely answer them before launching into a monologue about one or the other of her favourite areas of interests. “Did you know that archeologists almost all agree that even T. rex had feathers of a kind?” *adult hmmms says “oh?”* yeah, and birds are really just modern day dinosaurs that survived the extinction 65 million years ago, and—–”
She’ll go on forever.
I’m used to having precious few dialogues, actual give and take dialogues with her, and i live with her! The only way i get that sort of actual conversation is if i make it part of homeschool lessons, which of course, i do.
But as i was watching this – to me very familiar scene, it occurred to me that whatever the interactive back and forth commonly found in the conversations and dialogues of neuro-typical folk, and no matter how utterly unlike such conversations this was – she was communicating, nonetheless. She was recognising and relating to another human being, altho without the eye contact. She was sharing of herself, much more about herself than do we neurotyps when we voice platitudes or speak of things like the weather.
It was exhausting for some, i think – judging from their responses to her monologuing. A fact of which she, with her lack of ability to unravel the duplicity of social nuance, was never aware. But as i snuck glances at her captive audience, i could pick up on a non-verbal, “god, she just keeps going on and on”, as one by one, the chairs around the table offered up their occupiers, who politely found ‘somewhere’ else to be.
so , yesterday, for homeschool…i got schooled! Because i finally realised just how much Ziona’s monologuing says about her interpersonal skills…how much more she communicates and shares in this way, how much more she explains of her self and her reality to the those who share the world around her. My own shallow and rehearsed interpersonal dialogues with others seem to fall far short of really reaching out and touching in comparison!