May 02, 2014 0 Share

Talking the Talk

Illustration of speech bubble with two people talking.

Cody has a new found determination to extend his vocabulary. And over the last couple of months he’s provided us with many teachable moments on which we have been able to capitalize.

When he discovers a new word we supply him with a definition and for the next several days he practices using that word in different ways. For the most part Cody is using appropriate and correctly structured sentences, and his command of the English language is flourishing.

For example, we were driving along one day and I saw a toilet sitting in someone’s front yard. I said, “Why do people do that? It’s so tacky!” Cody repeated the word "tacky" and I explained that it meant that something was said or done in poor taste. For the next couple of days he used “tacky” on numerous occasions and with a few corrections here and there, he gained a sound grasp on what the word meant and how it should be used.

One night Bill came out of the bedroom with his shirt hiked up over his stomach and Cody said, “Just put that shirt down! That looks tacky!” We knew then his perception of the word was fitting. But there have been a few occasions when these moments have brought some intense embarrassment.

One day Cody heard a couple of young men having a triple-X conversation. Cody proceeded to repeat a string of vulgarity that would cause the most hardened of longshoremen to blush.

On our way home I explained to Cody that not only had these men engaged in profanity, but it is also not appropriate to talk about our private body parts or the private body parts of others in a public place. And if we do that in a private setting with another person. it needs to be done in a respectful manner. What those two young men were talking about was downright mean and hurtful to the young lady to whom they were referring and disgusting to the rest of us who heard it.

It’s very evident when Cody is taking something in. He becomes very quiet, locks eyes with the person speaking and sits with his index finger against his temple, contemplating all that has been said to him. And that’s what he did on our drive home.

After a long while of gazing out the window in silence he looked at me and said, “Those guys were mean to that girl!” I affirmed his statement and although Cody has encountered others who have engaged in similar conversation since, he hasn’t repeated it, and in fact makes his dismay known.

We’ve seen this pattern emerging with Cody for quite some time but as of late it seems that his understanding of language has become more complex. Most recently we’ve talked about words such as “explicit,” “thermostatic,” and “absurd.” In our discussion concerning the word “absurd” we explained that it meant something was ridiculous or silly. Again we noticed Cody reflecting upon the definition and then using the word in a sentence of his own. A few days later Bill told Cody that we were going to have roasted porcupine belly for dinner and Cody said to him, “That’s ridiculous! That’s silly! That’s absurd!” While his reply might have been somewhat redundant, it substantiated our belief that his comprehension of the definition was concrete and he had succeeded in utilizing what he had learned as a means of building upon his vocabulary skills.

Neurotypical people who are not around individuals with ASD on a daily basis are sometimes quick to assume that because the expressive language of a person with autism may be garbled in certain circumstances, that they lack receptive language skills. Cody is living proof that this assumption is painfully misguided. Hopefully, with the increase of media attention toward ASD awareness we can eradicate this “absurd” assumption from society and the human race as a whole will find itself newly endowed with understanding and compassion. Then perhaps individuals on the spectrum will finally experience real acceptance.