Bev and Bruce Say It Well

  • Posted on September 30, 2009 at 1:16 AM

Asperger Square 8 has a new post definitely worth reading.  Beautifully written and deeply meaningful, Bev addresses the news that Bruce Springsteen will be performing a benefit concert for Autism Speaks.  While her entire post is worthy of a good read and a good cry, I want to respond to these words:

Those who defend Autism Speaks will tell you that people with “real autism” can not speak for themselves. Some will go so far as to say that these “real” autistics cannot communicate at all.

My son, Alex, is one of these “real” autistics.  He does not speak, at least not in the sense that his vocalizations consistently and effectively communicate.  However, that does not mean he does not communicate, though it does mean he can be difficult to understand.

Yesterday, I was speaking with Ben’s therapists who were playing with Ben in his room.  We had plumbers over doing smelly things in order to bring our upstairs bathroom back to life – without the constant sluicing of our kitchen cupboards.  So, to release the smelliness we had the windows propped open.  One of the things I used to prop open a window was a box (100+) of crayons that were upstairs as part of Ben’s therapy supplies.  Alex saw the box of crayons and wanted them.  Alex loves to color and he goes through crayons rather quickly and removes the paper and breaks them into smaller pieces for his own, unknown reasons.  So, Ben has his own crayons that haven’t been Alex-ified.  And now Alex wanted them.  After all, he hadn’t had new crayons in two whole weeks.

I told Alex I had other crayons for him and these were Ben’s.  Alex accepted that answer and we both went downstairs, and I went all the way to the basement to get a little work done.

A few minutes later, Mark came down with our merry little catch phrase: “Just in case you didn’t know, our kids are weird.”  This is not said to be derogatory.  It’s just one of the things we say to capture the chaos that is our lives.  It could just as easily be me saying, “Just in case you didn’t know, my brain is weird,” with me then launching into one of the strange places my thought patterns had taken me this time.  So, Mark came down to describe an oddity to me.

This time it involved Alex, who regularly leads people to things he wants in order to communicate.  Alex took Mark by the hand and led him to the living room (which happens to be by the stairs that lead up to Ben’s room).  Then, Alex pulled Mark across to the other side of the house to get a piece of paper off the pile in the den.  Then, he pulled Mark back to the living room.  Knowing nothing of the exchange Alex and I shared moments ago, Mark was understandably baffled.

I knew exactly what Alex meant, however, so I handed Mark the box of new crayons I had tucked away for Alex.  Then, Alex contentedly peeled, broke, and colored away for most of the evening.

It certainly would have been easier if Alex could have said, “Dad, Mom said I could have new crayons and I would like them now, please.”  But Alex cannot say that.  That does not, however, mean he cannot communicate it.  The key to communication is not what you say, it’s what the person you’re trying to communicate with hears or observes.  Because Alex communicates in a way that is difficult for others to “hear,” we often need interpreters to understand him.  In this case I was the interpreter, but other times I’m the one who needs the interpreter.  Someday, when he’s ready, Alex will try to communicate with a bigger audience.  Hopefully there will be people willing to “listen” no matter how he is tries to communicate.

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