Arguing Autistic Style
By Consulting Clinician on April 29, 2014
So while the teacher and I spoke of end of the year expectations, I also explained to her his difficulty perceiving the question of "can you finish this in two minutes," how this has no meaning in his brain, and how it confused and exasperated his difficulties with math when asked "how long will it take you to do this?" vs. "Can you work on this now?" Maybe he would not have finished it in two minutes but the argument would have been focused on "I can't finish it in time" (teaching him how to see how time and he have an interpersonal relationship) vs. "How long will it take you to do this?" (creating confusion regarding ability and self-esteem). A formal, direct question can clear up autistic confusion verses the open-ended question creating it.
The drive home was only residuals of the experience for my student. His normally easygoing and humorous demeanor was very choppy and he did not want to engage in his normal banter, and then yelled at me for not engaging in our normal banter. The confusion of the previous conservation was still living within his brain and rolling around. He was nervous about saying the wrong thing yet wishing I would say the right one. I didn't. Every question bothered him. My silence bothered him. It was a lose-lose situation for both of us.
Communication between an autistic and non-artistic individual is a dance of mood, movement, and moment. Verbal and non-verbals skills become heightened messages or are totally ignored, misinterpreted in that mind of confusion as conflicted messages. There is no use in arguing or trying to turn it into a teaching moment. In this agitated state, it is better to get him to an area that he determines as safe, and then move forward later. I got him home so that he could engage within his comfort zone.
Our next meeting is another day to see if we can once more engage and part on a positive note while the teacher understands that two minutes can mean a lifetime if it is not seen through the same eyes.
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