May 18, 2007


I read an interview with noted animal behaviorist and autistic, Temple Grandin, where she described herself as feeling like "an anthropologist on Mars." A common theme in writings of autistic adults is the stress and anxiety they feel trying to fit in to "our world."

I understand and sympathize. I have spent too much time in Jeffworld and Hartworld not to. But that does not mean I like it there.

I prefer the "neurologically typical" world, where people make eye contact, speak to me in English words and sentences, and modulate their voices depending on the distance between themselves and the listener. In this world, some experiences are interesting and exciting, and some are boring or mundane.

I have no choice but to navigate in the boys' world--where life is loud, fast, daring, unpredictable and thrilling all the time. Social conventions are irrelevant. Impulsivity reigns supreme.

However--true confession here--the bizarre worlds of other impaired kids are just too much for me. I have tremendous appreciation and respect for adults who choose to work with these children: There isn't enough money in the world to pay me to do it.

Since both boys are in specialized private schools, I am frequently called upon for volunteer duties. Of course I participate, but that doesn't mean I like it.

I used to carpool another boy after school. Bright and gregarious, he had a sole passion in life: oceans. To communicate with him, you had to talk about oceanography, and if you didn't feel like it, it did not matter. He carried on a nonstop monologue for the entire ride. When it got too distracting, I would say, "Jason, stop talking now." After making a left turn or merging into highway traffic, I would say, "Go on," and he would pick up mid-sentence where he left off. Once, when all three boys were talking loudly at once, I bellowed, "Everyone, be quiet now!" A moment later, a voice piped up, "You can't stop me from talking about oceans." True enough, but that does not make it any less annoying.

At dinner with another family, their daughter told she me she was thinking of a song she knew, which she proceeded to sing throughout the entire meal, until her dad gently said, "Please sing in your head. I am having trouble hearing the conversation."

To the classmate who was screaming and jostling Jeff at a school function, I barked, "Our family rule is no touching other people. And if you can't use your inside voice, you can't sit with us!"

Although I am impatient, I understand, really I do, how difficult it is for these kids. I have two aliens of my own.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Lydia! So glad to see you out there. Shall I link to your site separately or to all? From our new interactive blog site:

Hope things are aok for you and those good boys.

Fran @ SPL