Friday, September 26, 2014

Hoodies and Pragmatics

Hooded in the UK
(If you're a Facebook friend of mine, no need to go further. This is just a slightly edited version of this morning's post there!)

N's hoodie is his security blanket; he wears it walking in to school every single day--even the days where it's been in the 90s at 8 am. This morning, a cooler morning though by no means cold, he mentioned as we walked to the car so I could drive him over, "Did you notice I decided not to wear my jacket today?* Even though it's a little bit cold?"

I was about to congratulate him on what I knew was a brave--if odd, since there was really no reason for it--step when he added, his voice quavering a little bit. "If I went to get it now, we'd be late."

"No, we wouldn't," I said.

He was off like a shot, back into the house, grabbing his hoodie.

"I don't know why I like to wear this jacket so much," he said, as he got back into the car. "But I need to."

And I was glad, once I'd realized what was really going on, to have been able to let him get it. Going in to middle school every day is scary enough WITH a hoodie. I say give him his armor. Whatever works, right?

*I often talk about N having pretty severe communication issues; those people who know N often look at me as if I'm insane. But it's true: Communication issues are a critical part of almost every autistic person's life, at some level. N speaks both fluently and fluidly, but that is where the real 'teeth' of his type of communication problems are. When he said "I decided not to wear my jacket today," he meant "I forgot my jacket." But how was I do know? He does this sort of thing on a very regular basis, often winding himself in big trouble when I don't 'get' what's going on and so it seems as if he's lied or that he's contradicting himself. (And trust me. He can flat-out lie, so it's not as if I'm wrong to sometimes assume that!  ) Often, he literally doesn't see where the contradiction is; I believe that's because his brain 'hears' what he MEANT to say, not what he actually said. Unfortunately, because he's not truly "scripting"--in the sense of using language I can tell he got from elsewhere--it's almost impossible for anyone else, including Baroy and I, to know when he's talked himself into a corner…until you hear that quaver, or see his brow furrowing at the followup questions, as if he can't understand why you would ask THAT, which has nothing to do with what he said. And then untangling all the words that came before to find the problem ones…it's a challenge. Thank goodness today's example was an easy one!

Pragmatics, man. They'll bite you in the butt. Or the hoodie.

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