I am so very fortunate to have a friendship that spans decades, but that was almost all lost in a moment when I unleashed my sarcastic wit upon her in the very early days of this friendship. Thankfully, she was forgiving and for the first time, I really understood that words could unintentionally hurt. I realize now that God was preparing me in a very specific way to love my son better.
Billy is completely literal and very tender-hearted. He doesn’t see facial expressions, so he has needed to learn how intonation changes meaning. All of this can spell disaster to a Mother who often parents through sarcasm. There is very little doubt in my mind that Billy has been used to make my heart softer and kinder, but what is super cool is that Billy has learned and developed quite a funny little wit of his own through the years, and I dare say no one has worked harder to learn how to joke and take a joke like he has.
I think possibly one of the most difficult things to understand about Autism is learning. EVERYTHING, at least in our experience, must be taught. This is so hard to understand because a “typically” developing child learns so much from just observing that you don’t even have to think through all the multiple steps taken for any one task. Not so for many on the spectrum. I touched on this a bit with handwriting in the blog entry titled “Uncovering a Gift”, and I am sure this will end up in many more posts. Imagine what must need to happen to understand when a friend is saying to you “thank you very much” but really meaning “you were really no help”. First you need language, and thankfully Billy has always been verbal. I am so very aware what a gift that is for someone who was once easily considered pretty far down the spectrum. Language has to have meaning, this is hard to come by in our world. Billy had a tremendous vocabulary very early on, but to our total sadness and shock we realized during an evaluation when he was four years old that he had very little meaning assigned to his words. Add to this the need to understand facial expressions and intonation, and you may just then begin to understand all of the work that needs to occur in understanding someone was less than pleased when they said “thank you very much”.