Sunday, 26 April 2009

Taming the chaos - continued

There is another type of chaos for those with autism.
It's us typical, ordinary people. In contrary to the
usual daily activities we can organise and predict, another
human being is much more difficult to understand.

People are unpredictable. During an interaction, with
another, you can't often predict what makes them laugh,
what might make them angry or indifferent. Even more
puzzling is the reason of the actions taken by others, which,
lets face it, sometimes might seem pointless or illogical.

An autistic person thinks very literally and very logically.
The rules of social interaction are learned not innate. When
Cirwen became more verbal, we had to teach her that you
take turns while having a conversation and keep to the
original topic until it is exhausted. Otherwise, her idea of
a conversation was a long, long monologue on her chosen
subject without an expectation of a response from us. She
just blurted out what she wanted to say and walked off,
leaving us rather stunned. If one of us asked a question,
it was answered with another monologue often not even
relating to the question. We also had to teach and explain
that interrupting someone else is rude and she should wait
her turn to join, or comment on what was said.

There is no "small talk" with an autistic person as well. The
idea of the usual "what a lovely day we have!" is completely
baffling. The day is nice, everyone can see it, and what is
the point to talk about it if it's not leading to any conclusion?

We had to teach Cirwen to listen to what others have to say,
even if it didn't involve her current obsession. You see, her
conversation was always one sided. I would start talking
about the film we watched yesterday, but because she didn't
really like it, she would answer by changing subject to the
latest fairy doll she was obsessed with.

It would be something like this:
- Did you like The Toy Story we saw yesterday, Cirwen?
- Mum, I called the fairy Bianca.
- Oh, that's a nice name for your fairy. But what do you think
about the film?
- Bianca said she would like to fly with me to see flowers in the

As much as it was frustrating I had to give up and talk about the
fairy. For Cirwen, there was no reason to talk about something
she wasn't interested in. Toy Story didn't have fairies in it and
that's what she wanted to talk about.
It took long several years for her grasp the idea, that some people
might be offended.

Another problem she faces, is the reason why people say or do
things, and recognising a joke or sarcasm. She like many other
autistics cannot read facial expressions. If you say something
nasty with a big grin on your face she won't think it's a sarcastic
remark towards her - she will think it's a joke.

Since she became more aware of others and their feelings, Cirwen
is a very gentle and warm hearted person and understands not
to say or do hurtful things. Now, another problem occurs, as she
finds it frustrating and difficult to understand why other children
are mean to her. She dearly wants to be accepted by her peers,
yet children are cruel. They laugh at her and tease her, because
she is different, because she cannot do things they can, because it
takes her longer to understand the lesson. She isn't bullied, it is
what normally happens between the kids at school. I must say she
made three wonderful friends who are literally looking out for her
and always stand up to defend her. She does that for them too.

Point is - people are unpredictable, ambiguous and cruel. They are
scary, confusing and hard to understand. It will take a lot to tame
this chaos. To be comfortable with the unknown, unpredictable
when she is left alone.


  1. How the heck do you put all this stuff so well?!

  2. Hi Libertine,

    You mentioned, "...people are unpredictable, ambiguous and cruel."

    I have found this to be true in some of of my own life experiences. I can ask the question why but the answer varies in much the same quantity as the people I've come in contact with.

    Childhood friends and school mates help children adjust to social interaction but there still seem to be those who take a predatory role to attack one's self-esteem.

    As Cirwen learns to discover her path, gaining confidence along the way she may find the cruelty and sarcasm diminish.

    We can't limit the cruel thoughts, words and actions of others but we can learn that they do not have to shape the view we have of ourself.


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  4. I find it hard to imagine not being able to read facial expressions- they're a vital element of communication. This is tough and yes, children are cruel and what hurts is they don't even know they're doing it.

  5. In a way, it seems like we all go through it.

  6. I think that her response to people may teach us something about how we tend to tolerate meaningless chatter and forget that our faces give us away. Maybe we could all learn to be a little bit more straightforward

  7. We continue to learn ... Btw, you are invited to my blog for light refreshment and to collect your award! :)

  8. I think ten years of engagement does count! Well done!

  9. Alloooo, you haven't collect your award from my blog?! :)

  10. Libertine, you have been tagged, the details are on my blog.

  11. To all of you, who commented (sorry for not answering directly but you all share something).
    Indeed we all go through it all and we all face similar trouble with people, bulling, gossip etc. However, as much as it hurts us, we can get over it, or have those clues, which an autistic person does not notice. Cirwen will find her path, although she is and always will be very vulnerable and this is what worries me the most. I do think we take a lot for granted and things for all not only autistic would be much better, if we were more straightforward.

  12. You are an inspiration! I can tell you are in tune with your daughters unique challenges in life, compassionate and also challenge her to work out the rough edges. Keep up the great work!

  13. Thank you Kat, you have no idea how important it is to hear this from someone like you x

  14. People are unpredictable and scary and it hard to function. The older I get the more aware I become of my unpredictability and my scary factor. I'm learning to appreciate my husband more and more as he deal with the invisible hot buttons of my emotional minefield.

    I actually love the predictability of those dealing with autism. I had a friend that is suspect had autism. Getting to know her was not an easy process but once I knew what upset her I found her to be a very peaceful, reflective and reassuring. She become very irritable when it was loud, but take her away from that and she would instantly turn into a sweetheart. Ready to advice me how to be a strong and self confident woman. She did not let anyone's opinions of her dampen her spirit.