ORIGINALLY POSTED: APRIL 8, 2012
April 8th: Autism has taught me to say what I mean and mean what I say.
For the record, I’m 27 years old. My driver’s license says so. My birthday certificate says so. And everyone present at my birth would attest to the claim. I am in fact, 27 years old. If you ask K how old I am she will tell you, “24”. Only my next birthday, she’ll tell I am turning 26. Though she has the concept of birthdays down with an efficient accuracy, I made a joke several months ago about only being 24 year old. Thus, I became 24 in the eyes of my daughter. When you have a child with autism, you have to be cautious with what you say and how you mean it. Just this evening, K asked for some french fries at dinner, to which I replied, “No, because you haven’t even touched your sandwich.” This simple statement brought on the physical response on her reaching her hand out and touching the top bun on her sandwich. Any other child, and that would seem like a snide, sarcastic, or rude thing to do, but for K, it seemed the logical action to follow the statement I had made about her not having touched her dinner. Of course, she had touched the sandwich. In fact, she had removed the cheese from the bun and set it on the plate next to the two half buns. She had eaten the half banana on her plate, and had picked several sesame seeds off of the lower half of the sesame seed bun her dad had bought for the hamburgers he grilled. She had been touching her food, she just wasn’t eating it. She did, eventually, get french fries, but only after removing the sesame seeds from the lower bun and eating only that. No cheese, no top bun. Half a banana and a mutilated hamburger bun. The point to this story is that what I said wasn’t what I meant, but with kids like K, what I say is exactly what I mean, even if it’s not. Autism has taught me that meaning is not always clear and communication has to include both a clear speaker and a patient listener.