Communication Deficit

Communication Deficit

I often wonder if my readers understand the everyday challenges of my autism world? Especially the ones with no experience with autism? You don’t know it if you don’t live it. How could you? And what could I do to keep things real for you guys? Today’s post will give you a glimpse on our one such everyday challenge i.e. Communication!

As you know I have a 5-year-old daughter with mild autism whom I fondly call Buttercup. You look at her and she would appear perfectly normal. Her disorder appears insignificant to the untrained eye. My daughter is verbal, and I thank God for that. However, a verbal child with autism isn’t the same as a neurotypical child who speaks. My words would make more sense to you as you read along.

When she was younger she would repeat every word we said, just like a parrot. My little parrot could recite all the nursery rhymes and mimic every single dialogue of her favourite cartoon (with exact same tone and facial expressions). Sounds like fun? Right? Believe me, it’s not. At first it seemed cute but after asking a simple question like ‘Do you want a cookie or a cracker?’ and asking it the 8th time and still getting back the reply ‘Do you want a cookie or a cracker?’ rather than her actual preference, is very frustrating. The term is Echolalia, she’s unable to put her own thoughts into words and therefore just repeats whatever she hears.

Fast forward to present day, things have improved. She can now say basic greetings and tell her personal details such as name, age, birthday, address etc. when asked. She has now moved on from singular, echoic words to partial sentences and phrases like “Scared, fright, run away” when she’s being scolded or “happy, great job” when she likes something I did. Her mind is beyond mesmerizing and her memory is like nothing I’ve ever seen. She giggles more than any child I’ve ever met. And she sings! When she is singing a song, she doesn’t miss a word. She has a speech delay, but she is not miserable. And we all work together to make sure we understand her.

Even though we may appear like a seasoned Autism family, yet there are often days and instances when we fail, when there’s a great disconnect in communication. When we misunderstand her needs without knowing we misunderstood them, because of the communication gap — again, despite our best efforts. Like few days back ….. I notice her opening the fridge door. Thinking she wants a candy again, I offer her one. She takes it happily but says ‘I want Cow’. She continues saying ‘I want Cow’ every now & then. Oh, may be its something she learnt at school or could be scripting again so I ignore. Off she goes to my elder one, ‘I want Cow’. Oh, maybe she’s lost one of those little figurines of farm animals that she plays with. So the elder one finds the cow and gives it to her. After a while, she goes again ‘I want Cow’. We are all baffled to this point. Oh, so it’s a silly joke she has come up with and wants us to join her in the play, ‘I want Dog’, ‘I want cat’ we are all sharing our pet preferences now. You have any better idea? I mean there isn’t much you can do if your kid wants a Cow! Suddenly it occurs to me that maybe she wants milk. She recently learnt that cow gives us milk and unable to find the correct word, she’s asking for cow instead of milk. Logical! Looks like I’ve cracked the code!

I take her by hand, walk over to fridge, open the door, reach out for the milk jar and show it to her ‘Do you want milk? ‘I want Cow’ she says and I follow her gaze towards the top shelf of the fridge. And her eyes are stuck on a yogurt tub kept there, with a Cow’s picture on it.

Welcome to my world. Now you know ………

And I’m reminded too, Communication still is, our biggest struggle.

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