Let’s give him something to talk about

May 25, 2011 at 9:10 am 13 comments

     I have had to force myself to limit the Pokemon conversation that is a constant in our lives these days. I let C tell me about two Pokemon, or talk for five minutes, or ask three questions. But when we’re done, he inevitably asks, “What should we talk about now, Mom?”

     I admit to being at a complete and utter loss at how to answer this question, and it leaves me pondering just what it is I discuss with other people all day and how those conversational topics are set. Having to “pick” a topic of conversation reminds me of an awkward first date, because you know if it’s that hard to find something to talk about, the relationship will never work. Since this question mostly comes up in the car after all other topics are exhausted, I generally say something about just enjoying the ride and looking out the window. This seems like a cop-out to me, but I’m baffled as to what to say. I’m so used to conversation just flowing that being forced to think about how it does so renders me mostly mute.

     I’ve tried the conversation starters, and they work for a moment or two. Once C even surprised Husband and me by suggesting we share one thing we liked about our day over dinner. God love this child – he is trying as hard as is humanly possible. It’s not that C is trying to hide anything or doesn’t want to talk, but when I ask him what he did in Spanish class today, the answer is brief and full of the basics. He doesn’t talk about the other kids unless something major has happened, and he often misses the daily dramas that occur within the classroom around him. I pull as much information out of him as I can, but once those conversations die out, C somehow works Pokemon (or Mario, or plumbing, or trains, or whatever is his current fascination) back into the discussion, and I tend to fantasize about escaping to Hawaii.

     I’ve realized that despite being extremely verbal and talkative, C has very little “functional language.” A speech therapist told us this once, and I admit to not completely understanding her message. “C has much to talk about, but much of it has nothing to do with people, emotions, social interaction, or function.” Frankly, I think we were so happy he was talking at all after years of silence (verbal anyway…the days of screeching “Pterodactyl Boy” aren’t erased from my memory), we perhaps missed the fact that his language was missing some key components.

     Yet now, when I talk with some of the neighborhood kids, I realize how effortless conversation actually is for typical kids, and I revel in those moments of crystal clear communication. I’m amazed not only at what they observe (“Dog isn’t as excited to see me this time as he was last time, Mrs. P,” says the three-year old neighbor boy, while I stand there, mouth gaping open at his awareness and ability to share that information with me). Then C will say something to another parent about knowing what Wi-Fi system they have and whether their parental controls are set on the Wii and both of us have to chuckle.

     Fortunately, C is extremely charming. Dimpled and smiling, he loves to talk. He’s friendly, engaging, and often quite funny. He does have friends – actually, if he knows your name, he considers you a friend – although close friends are few and far between. At this age, where kids are starting to have relationships based on more than one shared interest, C is left standing conspicuously – and often painfully – alone. I hang on to the fact that his so lovable; adults love him, and my hope is that when his current peers become adults, they will love him too.

Entry filed under: autism. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Ten Summer dreams make me feel fine…

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rosie  |  May 25, 2011 at 11:29 am

    if you only knew how closely ben holds C to his heart! i nearly have to tie ben to a tree to keep him from pestering you every second of every day, standing in your driveway waiting for the brief moment he can spend talking pokemon or mario cart w/C! i think ben talks about C the way C talks about pokemon! 🙂 and i think you know ben is pretty pure at heart so there’s nothing forced w/him! yesterday, in utter defeat and exhaustion, i finally gave in to,” can i go wait for chayton, can i play w/chatyon, when will chayaton be home? (looks at clock & figures it out), he will be home in 23 minutes, can i go wait in his drive way so i can see when he gets home. he’s not home yet, is he ? did i miss him when i came home last time to check the clock. 😦 comes home head hung low, sadness…… & sniffles… “he has to go to something else this afternoon…. ” ben is BURSTING at the seams to take C to karate still too!! Z quieted him for a short while, but it’s C he wants to take! so if nothing else, C has his very own stalker!!!

  • 2. momfog  |  May 25, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I’ve felt like screaming when my son chatters on about baseball stats but I never thought to daydream of Hawaii. Thanks for the tip.
    It’s hard, but it really is a blessing my son can talk at all.

    My son will be 11 this year and he’s come a long way since his diagnosis at age 3. He has “friends” at school but they never seem to make it to his birthday parties. Thank God for the church friends who have known him his whole life. Birthdays would be depressing without them.

  • 3. goodfountain  |  May 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Charlotte’s SLP at school has been working on conversation starters with her this year. Today when she got in the car she said, “Tell me about your day, Mom.” That was kind of cute. On Mother’s Day when my mom came over, she said, “So, Grandma, how was your Saturday?” I don’t know that she’s really listening to the answer, but of course I give her props for asking.

    Charlotte doesn’t really rattle on and on about an obsessive interest, but in general she’s just not talkative. It’s very difficult to have a conversation with her -she just doesn’t share unless the mood hits her. And a lot of conversation with her is non sequitirs or random factoids. She sits in silence at dinner every day. Sarah, meanwhile, non-stop talking machine. Non. Stop. All. Day. Nothing gets me more irked than when Charlotte IS trying to talk and Sarah starts screaming that it’s her turn. Gah!

  • 4. robinaltman  |  May 25, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    He is so lovable, I have faith that it’s all going to work out. It is embarrassing, but my kids still talk about Pokemon. They threaten that if I tell anyone, they’ll kill me, but I doubt that they’ll find your blog. If they do, I’ll have to move and change my name.

  • 5. autismisnot  |  May 26, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I can so relate to this post. Every one is always so praising of B’s communication. It is the same as what you are explaining though, he can talk and talk and talk and talk, but social conversations are just totally lost on him. We also use conversation starters, but usually end up on the topic the earth’s molten lava layer, or how you could build an anti-gravity room on earth or how cool it would be if we could engineer a battery pack into his lego creations. It is like pulling teeth to find out about his school day though. Thank God for a teacher that sends home a daily note!

  • 6. akbutler  |  May 27, 2011 at 3:28 am

    I was just talking to a friend about this the other day. Her son is non-verbal, and is in my son’s class. She said that someday she hoped they would be friends. I said they already are – my son knows her son’s name (yells it, actually, when he’s mad at him) and that’s how I know they are buddies.
    We’ve just started with functional conversational language here, but it’s sloooow. Just like he has his preferred activities, he has his preferred conversations. I just hope his future wife likes Hot Wheels cars…

  • 7. Lizbeth  |  May 27, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I can soooo relate to this. My son just spent the better part of the day in the cafeteria under a table for a tornado warning and his only mention of it was that he missed lunch. When I pressed him he strategically turned the conversation to how the tables were made since he “finally” got a chance to get under them to see how they worked!!! No mention of being scared or anything. Just happy to see the mechanics of the underbelly of the table!!!

  • 8. Springingtiger  |  May 30, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    I am at a loss to understand why you are so worried about social conversation most of which is utterly trivial and a waste of time. Surely it is better to talk about something in which one is genuinely interested than to exchange banal comments about things that matter little? If I’m asked how my day went I’ll answer, “Ok” or “busy” or whatever. If I’m asked what happened I’ll tell what happened, but personally having done it I see little reason to talk about it apart from a few incidents that stick in my mind and those I repeat for years – literally.

    • 9. asdmommy  |  May 31, 2011 at 6:14 pm

      It’s not that I’m so much worried about the conversation, but I’m worried about C being alone. He is intensely social, and one by one I see other kids start to turn elsewhere for relationships. One can only talk about so much Pokemon – if he can find someone who shares his limitless passion, that would be fantastic. So far, he hasn’t. But the whole thing really prompted me to think about conversation and how it works, and it is truly perplexing – and, I agree, “trivial.” Still, it is what it is, and if C continues to be so desirous of constant contact and interaction, he’s either going to have to find some special interest groups or learn how to have more back and forth conversations.

  • 10. Shivon  |  May 31, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Our boys are so similar, D’s speech is anything but functional :/…You are doing an amazign job 🙂

  • 11. visionofautism  |  June 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    ha ha ha! beautiful… Emma talks about babies, and clothes, and bodily functions, and her list of everlasting ‘oweeeeees!’. 😀

    Her speech can fool the inexperienced into thinking there’s more communication than is really happening. But, I do see small improvements. ?

    My son used to be horrible in the car, the same type of thing. I’d end up turning up the radio and telling him loudly, “QUIET! It’s MUSIC TIME!!!!” ha ha ha! I felt SOOO horrible, but if I had to hear about bees, and why do they sting people ONE MORE TIME I was considering puncturing both eardrums. ha ha! Then, I tried to consciously force him to understand the words ‘inner monolog’. It took about 8 years, but he’s finally there. 😀 He probably would have been classified PDDNOS, but it’s too far gone now.

    My husband and I have an invisible button on the dashboard, it’s near the hazard lights. It’s our make-believe privacy window that rises up and seals us off from all goings-on in the back seat. I say you invest in one too. ❤

  • 12. Bruce (born 2b me)  |  June 13, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Hmm, you’ve got me wondering about how I did in conversations when young. My memory tells me quite poorly, except for special interests. I don’t recall any conversations in all of high school that didn’t involve a special interest (math, steam locomotives, art), and there weren’t many of those. I just didn’t do “chit chat.” And yet I am married with four adult children. And as a kid I was not seen as “extremely charming” as far as I can remember!
    So I am sure C will indeed be dearly loved. Like Shivon says, you’re doing an amazing job.

  • 13. aspergerssearch  |  June 18, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    your son C sounds like a real trooper. I’ve discovered that the most interesting things to talk about are theories or how far a copyright protects something. talking about the meaning of a word is quite fun or the misuse of words… my favorite is the debate that humans are not the only sentient species on the planet. It is also fun to try to disprove a theory. These are just a few things that I talk about for hours with a friend, yes they may seem strange to the normal mind, but they’re loads of fun for us and I am sure you could enjoy them too. Has C ever tried debating? that is really fun. it is constructive arguing.


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