Do you know how many times I still communicate with my son in the same fashion that my own mind processes and regurgitates information? I can jump from topic to topic getting distracted along the way (squirrel!), all the while murmuring snide remarks and sarcastic jokes under my breath about something funny I just noticed. Somewhere, embedded within my ADD spiel, lies an actual command for him to follow.
After all that, I find myself frustrated and shocked that he’s saying, “What?” to the very first sentence that kicked off the whole monologue. He heard nothing past that!
This type of spastic conversation is fine with my daughter, who follows every tangent and sarcastic comparison with uncanny speed. She’s even a step ahead of me at times! But it’s another story with my son. Another plane. Another universe.
I briefly touched on the differences in how my son processes information with my Hardware Store for a Loaf of Bread story, but I wanted to expand on it to include a deeper perspective: the way I have used this understanding to routinely communicate with others around me. Especially in the business world.
Have you ever asked someone for the status of something and received a return email that wandered all over the place but still left off some vital information (kinda like the way I talk sometimes)? How hard is it to dig through someone’s stories, excuses, and unrelated or irrelevant statements only to find that you overlooked the actual information you needed because it was buried “below the fold”?
How about looking over a proposal that has the price mixed in with the benefits, solution and problem… product features are listed inconsistently with irregular bolding and capitalization… I can’t.
I used to be able to follow those serpentine-like speeches from others and would often write in the same manner, (if a train was traveling at x mph and left he station at 6:15 in Austria…) but now I’m much more cognizant of how I can dance around the point I need to get across if I’m not careful.
Because of the way I need to speak and write for Justin so that he can understand what is being communicated to him, I have learned to carry that into other aspects in my world. I ask myself if the words I’m using are necessary to the sentence I’m typing. I remind myself to simplify. I am intentionally clear and concise.
“You can have the children on the weekend of the 13th.”
“The following sizes are available for your website banner ad.”
“These items are still needed in order for me to create your website.”
“I can train your department on the 15th at 4 pm or the 18th at 11 am. Please let me know which date works for you.”
Occasionally, I forget to include some customary small talk when I’m communicating, which isn’t always optimal, either. I’m not a robot and I never mean to be rude! But for the most part, all of my clients have remarked on the smooth process and clear updates they receive in my emails or proposals. Stopping and asking myself how my son might interpret something helps me stay on task in my communication goals with others. Sticking to facts in a polite tone can also evade arguments that some people try desperately to engage you in, by the way
As far as my fast-paced brain at home goes, at least I know now that when my son asks for clarification on the second word (and I’m already into the tenth sentence) it does not mean that he’s tuned me out or is choosing to be non-compliant. It means I need to slow down and finish one complete thought in a clear way before moving on. What a great lesson.
What about you? Are there new ways that you have learned to communicate from your child with Autism? I’d love to hear your comments below or on the SOA Facebook page!