J, like other people with Autism/Aspergers is a literal thinker. He occasionally gets jokes (but very rarely and they usually have to be explained to him before he gets them), and he doesn’t understand metaphors and sarcasm. At times this is funny and has made us laugh but at times his lack of understanding has fuelled his anxieties and has caused him, (and us) alot of stress usually resulting in an aggressive meltdown or lots of tears, both of which can be very challenging!
I’ve written posts in the past about J’s literal thinking (you can read a couple of these posts here and here). I’ve gotten better at watching what I say, (whoops slipped up there ;) hehe), but I still slip up at least once each and everyday. Sometimes the way he thinks makes me giggle, other times I get cross with myself for not thinking before I speak.
Just the other day whilst
arguing trying to negotiate with him I made the mistake of saying “Sometimes you think the whole world revolves around you but……” and was interrupted by J who yelled at me “NO I DON’T! THAT’S JUST STUPID THE WORLD REVOLVES AROUND THE SUN NOT ME!”……….Smart kid? Yep he sure it, Smart Alec? Yes sometimes, Literal Thinker? Always!
Alot of people would think that his literal thinking isn’t really a problem but for J it can cause huge problems. For example, last year at whilst at school, for the first 3 terms he didn’t use the toilet at school, instead he “held it in” and was bursting to go once he got home. This also resulted in lots of tummy aches as you can imagine. The reason for this………….well it all comes back to his literal thinking. His teacher on a few occasions questioned him as to why he hadn’t gone to the toilet when she had told him to, he got a little upset by this and declared that he had………He had been told to go to the toilet and to wash his hands, so he had gone into the toilets and washed his hands. He had done EXACTLY as he had been told to do, but ofcourse this meant that he hadn’t actually used the toilet. (Using the toilet whilst at school is something that he still struggles with)
Something else he has difficulty with is his literal interpretation of rules………….For example one of the rules at his school this year is “Stay outside once you are outside”, J interpretation of this is once outside at breaktimes he can only come inside when the bell goes or his teacher tells him to. So if he does decide that he needs to use the toilet, he won’t because he can’t come in to do so, or if he gets “dirty” he can’t go and wash his hands because he can’t go back inside to do so. One of the rules at his previous school was “No Shouting and when inside use your inside voice” so when he hurt himself whilst playing undercover, despite needing help he wouldn’t yell for help because it was against the rules. Instead he got upset when he came home that day because not only had he hurt himself but nobody had listened to him when he said, (in his inside voice), that he had hurt himself.
At times J also has difficulty understanding TV programs and separating what is real and what isn’t………for example during an episode of one of his favourite cartoons one of the characters was struck by lightening and became a ghost………… it was typical old school cartoon, (you know like Tom and Jerry, Sylvester and Tweetie etc), however J’s interpretation of this was, “if I go out when it’s thundering and lightning I’ll die because the lightening will get me”…………..you see the problem?
Then there’s jokes………. A friend recently told me a simple joke that I then told J……..”What’s green and sharp?”……”A blade of Grass!”………… Ofcourse we’ve had to explain this to J because his initial reaction was “Is grass sharp? I didn’t know it was sharp!” After a full on explanation he now gets the joke and he relays it to us …………….all the time! (‘Cus he’s so proud that he knows a funny joke now)
Why have I written this post? Well I just wanted to highlight J’s literal thinking. This week someone from J’s school told me that all children J’s age are literal………………I work with children and I know that to some extent alot of children J’s age are literal……………but not as literal as J! His literal thinking (along with alot of his other quirks and struggles) is very misunderstood. Most people we’ve encountered don’t seem to understand just how literal he is. He lives in a very black and white world…………..There is no grey!
So please use your words carefully and think before you speak. Please try to remember your words may be understood EXACTLY as you say them.