Asking questions

My middle child Mr.C has been sharing PSA videos on my Facebook page as a way to both entertain himself and his aunt (who works with the health department of our state). His silly PSA’s about washing his hands and playing with his super hero toys has been a bit of a morale booster for my SIL and her co-workers.

Today’s PSA was a video of me interviewing Mr.C with some fun questions about things he likes. The PSA reflected the phone calls he has been making to his grandpa, asking him a bunch of questions about his grandfather’s childhood and his favorite things like colors and ice cream. The idea was to share this past time to others and get people calling and getting to know their elder relatives better.

But after interviewing my son with 10 basic questions I was curious how his slightly older brother Mr. L would do with the exact same questions. I didn’t think it would go amazingly, at best I was hoping for vague responses that sort of correlated with the requests.

You see, answering questions doesn’t come easy to Mr. L. He is very literal and very present when it comes to his thought process. There is a lot of spacial thinking involved when you ask someone about their day, or what their favorite color is.

I knew up until the interview that my oldest’s day was going pretty well and he was feeling mellow. I also knew that his favorite color was red because when given a choice he always picked it.

For example, Mr. L currently won’t do his school work with me unless I have a red mechanical pencil ready for him. Last week we had misplaced his only red pencil, so I took a red crayon and colored masking tape and wrapped it around a purple pencil. I was lucky enough that he found the substitute acceptable until the original was found later that same day.

What I didn’t expect was how upsetting the interview would be to Mr. L and in turn how sad that would make me. I thought by going to my oldest and sitting with him wouldn’t be a big deal. I wasn’t even going to pull him away from what he was doing so I could talk to him. But the whole situation was very stressful for him. He got irritated, and grumpy. He started fussing and whining, he pulled a pillow over his head and started shouting at me. The comparison reminded me of how different my two sons really are and the black and white left no grey in the interview.

I can ask Mr. C what his favorite food is and it just be that, a reminder to everyone what he enjoys eating. But for Mr. L, asking him what his favorite food is can be upsetting because he doesn’t have a clear understanding of what the word, “favorite” even means.

If Mr. L is going to be talking about food, he thinks it is being talked about because it is now the next thing on the agenda. But if he’s not hungry he doesn’t want to be forced to eat, so why would I even be bringing up food? The whole concept of talking about food when no one is hungry is super confusing to my kiddo.

I should have known the questions I asked my neurotypical kid wouldn’t translate as fluid to my child on the autism spectrum. I know that asking Mr. L how his day at school went always stressed him out, because he thought it meant I was going to make him go back the same day. I also know that when others ask Mr. L what he likes to do he doesn’t answer.

I know I need to wait longer when asking Mr. L questions so he can take time to process the question and word the answer. I guess I was just hoping that by being willing to wait I would get different answers… Instead of accidentally giving a big ol’ gift basket of anxiety tied with a ribbon of frustration to Mr. L.

This is when I stepped back and decided to do a different interview for Mr. L and not the same one I did with Mr. C. I also took a further step back and asked myself what was the point of the interview? The answer was to get to know my kids better. So I needed to think of how to do that with Mr. L which involved stepping outside the box and outside the lists and let him do the teaching.

So I sat down, I waited, and I listened. And what I discovered was magical. Sure I didn’t learn what he thought my age was, or who his favorite superhero is. But I learned that in his imagination he makes trains fly. Not only that, he has a take off ramp for them and a separate landing strip. And he also knew the date… Which I don’t know how he knew that.

So here’s the deal, and I’m going to get on my soapbox for a minute. This is why accommodations are essential for those with disabilities to have a fighting chance both in education and in the work place. But not just there, but at parks, libraries, grocery stores, restaurants, airplanes, etc. Autism awareness and acceptance makes all the difference in these people’s lives. Those with disabilities can bring just as much to the table as anyone else if people can just stop comparing them. And they can share ideas we didn’t even know existed if we can just give them the space to tell us.

I didn’t go into this to compare my kids, I had good intentions and just wanted to spend time with them and learn from them. I just came out learning something different from what I was looking for. Kids can be pretty cool like that.

Have you seen Mr. C’s PSA’s on my, “Stay Positive it’s Autism” Facebook page? If not, come check it out 😉🎙🧩🦠🧫

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