Saturday, December 18, 2010

Autism diaries XXIV: leaving the harbor

Even though it's always been one of his areas of greatest weakness, J is surprisingly willing to read--so long as the content interests him. And most things do interest him--so long as they make sense. This rules out many of those social, dialogue-intensive realistic fiction novels set in school yards and alleyways, but it still leaves history, geography, current events, and, of course, science and engineering. Recently, J was so taken with Eli Whitney and the concept of standardization of parts that he got up and walked around the house, lecturing me about all the different things it contains that are standardized--light bulbs, outlets, switches, hinges--and why their standardization makes life easier.

But because he's more of a High Functioning Autism child than an Aspie, reading more often provokes questions than lectures. Many of these questions are on target, but some stem more from his obsessions with ceiling fans and mischief making--and tend to arise as the reading gets tough and things stop making sense. So I've recently imposed a new rule that all the questions he asks during our reading sessions must be relevant to the reading.

Oh, but he's clever. So first he asks a question about the steam trains we're reading about. Then he follows this with a question about taking the train to see his uncle, and then a question about breaking the chains of his uncle's ceiling fans. When I point out that he's now violating our new rule, he grins and points out the chain of relatedness between the reading and each successive question.

He's thoroughly delighted with his ingenuity, but there's yet more joy to come. For then I point out that relatedness isn't transitive: I am related to him, and he is related to his (paternal) uncle, but I am not related to his uncle. He loves it! He knows full well what I'm getting at, but he's never encountered the term "transitive" before. In retrospect, it seems he's been aching for a word to attach to a concept he's long understood. Now that he finally has one, he springs up again and starts talking about all the relationships that are and are not transitive, putting objects inside and in front of one another ("contains" and "in front of" are transitive; "touching" is not); hypothesizing that all adjectives ending in -er are transitive; and working out that "like" and "friend of" are not.

Somewhere in the course of all this, he comes up with a metaphor for going off on tangents: "my boat has left the harbor and is going out to sea."

Indeed it has and is. And in a good way, too.


Lsquared said...

That sounds like a truly delightful discussion!

Rachel Simon said...

Thrillingly intellectual, with a humorous twist. He is so very, very clever - but you, my dear, are his match. And I bet you're very grateful for that.

Nancy Bea Miller said...

Wow! So exciting! Can hardly wait to watch more of the J story unfold! Where will that ship go next? (You are the perfect mother for his needs.)