Monday, January 18, 2010

Change, Fast and Slow

Change comes fast and slow at Autism's Edges, which might also be known as PDD-NOS-Ville, or Expressive-Receptive Language Disorder Central.

Sometimes it seems that things change overnight, and other times it seems to be an endless slog through language development, social skills faux pas, and battles for a free and appropriate public education.

Yesterday was a "change is on the way day."

Lately Sweet M has been reading the Scholastic Children's Dictionary that she got for Christmas last year.

Reading the dictionary was her idea. Two months back she announced that she wanted to improve her vocabulary and asked if I knew where the dictionary had gone. I dug it off one of our overpacked book shelves and she started to read one or two pages each night, sometimes commenting on the words. Last night she said "Hey, did you know that "barrio" is a name for neighborhood in Spanish?" She's in the B's now.

Just before settling down to read last night, Sweet M said, "Hey M, I've got three questions for you?"

"Okay, let's hear 'em."

"What does plague mean? Why is H1N1 so bad? How did learning disabilities begin?"

Cartoon thought bubble over my head would have been reading — "Whoo-hoo . . . three questions in a row!"

Okay. I know. These are typically developing four- or five-year-old questions. A what question. A why question. A how question.

But still -- questions! And three of them right in a row. Do you remember when she couldn't follow three-stage directions? I do. I remember it in wrenching detail.

So I answered her questions. I answered them like I would have answered them for a really advanced five-year-old.

The plague question and the H1N1 answers weren't very involved, so I won't bore you with the answers at this point. But the learning disabilities question seemed really important, for all kinds of reasons.

This is what I said:

"Many years ago people had the mistaken idea that some people were smart and other people were stupid and some were in-between smart and stupid or average. Then scientists (Sweet M loves scientists and thinks they are the highest authority on the planet) discovered that all people learn in different ways. And some people, like you, learn differently than the majority of people. You go to a school for kids with learning disabilties. You have a different way of learning or a learning disability."

"Let me guess: I can't hear."

"Well, actually you can hear fine. You have excellent hearing. But when the sounds go into your brain, your brain has a tough time figuring out what they all mean. So it has been hard for you to learn from just listening. You like pictures. But other people are different. Take me for example — I like talking. You know I can just blah-da-de-blah-da-de-blah . . . ".

"Yeah, like when you're on the phone. You don't stop til you hang up."

"Yup exactly. I don't stop 'til I hang up."

And so change is coming to Autism's Edges. We are all developing, bit by bit, and also all at once. And we won't stop 'til we hang it up.


VAB said...


Our guy deciding on his own to read the dictionary coincided with a massive leap forward in language. It's a fairly advance piece of metacognition to be able to think about words as things that you can set about learning in a totally abstract way. And it's a very powerful approach, once it's in place. Sounds like Sweet M is finding her own learning style.

Chaoticidealism said...

I learned to use idioms after reading a dictionary full of them. Go M! :)

VAB said...

I was thinking some more about what you were saying about ages and stages of learning because I found myself doing exactly the same calculation this morning. Our guy is a couple years older than Sweet M, but the thing I was proud of him for doing (envisioning a tree falling on a bridge and blocking traffic) was an intellectual achievement you would generally see at age four. It made me think or two things: one, that people are wrong when they assume there is only one order in which metal skills can be learned; and two, isn't it amazing what our kids manage to get done without the advantage of the mental software that most kids get pre-installed.

Yumi Kubo said...

This is great idea!

Anonymous said...

i absolutely LOVE this!! go Sweet M! i'm dancing as i sing it: don't stop till you hang it up!