Learning the Ropes
High Functioning Autism
Noah, as most of you know, has high functioning autism. One common characteristic of children with autism is their way of thinking. Children with autism, adults too for that matter, are what is known as concrete or literal thinkers. Meaning you mean what you actually say.
This hasn’t come into play too much until Noah hit 3rd grade. Occasionally something would come up, but overall it didn’t affect him too much. This is mainly because in grades Kindergarten through 2nd-grade students are taught the tools they need to learn. Basically these are the facts. Then, 3rd through 6th grade they are expected to be able to apply those the facts. That’s where the problems have crept in. Math word problems and inferring or predicting outcomes when reading can be very difficult. Idioms and Metaphors are a HUGE struggle!! Multiple meaning words are exhausting. All this being said, most are quite capable of overcoming all of these issues, but it is a marathon, not a sprint. See why he has such a hard time? I am always talking in these type terms without even thinking about it. It’s in my personality almost to a flaw! And sarcasm…..don’t even get me started!!!!
For example, the other night I was wanting to get started reading the next chapter in a book they were assigned for school. Noah wanted to go downstairs and grab his stickers and his reading log first. I said, “Go then, but don’t take all day! I need to get in the shower.” He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “I would never do that. That’s just crazy talk.” I laughed and laughed, mainly out of exhaustion, but still.
Through a lot of intervention, he has gotten better as far as metaphors and idioms go. Noah is very visual so once I show him a picture or take the time to explain it he usually grasps it and moves on. An illustrated dictionary made a huge difference with vocabulary words. Thankfully, he has had some of the very best teachers who have taken the time to get to know and understand him. That alone makes all the difference in the world. And, until you are forced to think about it, you never really give it a second thought when using the English language. Now that I am, it is overwhelming for me! And I understand it!! (For the most part)
He is even learning to apply idioms in his vocabulary, although not always in the typical sense. Just last week it had stormed most of the day and at some points had rained particularly hard. When I picked him up from school that afternoon he said very matter of fact, “At school today I saw it raining cats and dogs outside my window.” I just grinned and said “Yep! It sure did.” Such an innocent little guy….
Concrete thinking doesn’t just impact him academically. It comes into play in the social setting. I can’t tell you how many times someone has jokingly said something to Noah and he has looked so confused or hurt even. It’s in so many people’s personalities to aggravate or kid with someone. He often takes it as an insult and feels as if you are trying to make him look stupid. This, as I can imagine, can be very frustrating and confusing. That is one reason I like for at least the parent to know about him, so hopefully they can see reason. At the same time, I worry about the labeling aspect of it. I would rather a parent not tell their kid that Noah has autism. Everyone says, “Be different. Different is good.” And I believe that to be the truth, but not as a little boy just trying to find his way. Then it’s just hard….