Autism asks challenging questions, begs us to think outside the box and then...Autism Answers! Musings, shared family stories, book reviews, and short fiction. My posts are rarely specifically about autism or parenting. They are, however, almost always stories grown from the fertile and organic thinking soil that can be found where the two come together.
brown eyes pleaded with me to take away the anguish while his newly accepted
maturity knew that I could not.
But we both
also knew, my youngest brother and I, that—as always—I would try.
was manufactured by his perseveration of the moment (having to do with the
shape of cars in the future) and a strong frightening certainty that things
would not go his way.
I took a
breath and distilled the words that usually helped him. Tossing away any
unnecessary fluff or digressions I attempted to gift him with a soundbite he
could hold onto and clearly remember.
doesn’t speak English or French, Rye, it speaks the language of mood. The more
joy and faith and love you speak to it and envision for it, the more it will
return that same communication.”
I put the
dish I was washing in the dish strainer, rubbed my wet hands on a nearby towel,
and returned my brother’s gaze. I spoke to him for a moment clearly in the
language of mood, sending understanding and supportive energy his way and felt
a surge of appreciation returned. I was encouraged then to add more words.
you’re speaking fear to the universe. You saw a car shaped the way you don’t
want them shaped and rather than laugh, believing in a playful Universe that teases, you
chose to fear a Universe that refuses to care about you. You thought words like
I don’t want that shape but the
Universe speaks mood, not words, and is giving you what it thinks you want
based on where you put your energy.”
year old baby brother relaxed then, and sat comfortably in a chair in my
kitchen, looking at me expectantly. He wanted more words.
Universe is kind. It listens. So use the language of mood to tell it what you
smiled then and we started making up scenes and situations where he could
choose to feel afraid or instead choose to feel encouraged. Admittedly, we got
pretty silly! Because by then we were speaking the mood of comfortable sibling
the first time I had helped my brother by sharing this idea with him, but it
was the first time I was able to bring it down to a smaller number of words;
the necessary ones.
that day I’ve been able to remind him of the entire conversation and concept by
simply saying: Use the language of mood.
powerful. Communication is even more
so. Often the clearest and most honest way to communicate is by using less
I’m in a
unique position to know this. As a writer I spend a delightful amount of time
tweaking my meaning by weeding out words. A practice I first learned to value
while growing up surrounded by autism and siblings with immense challenges in
I am the
oldest daughter of eight now grown children. My mom always planned on being the
fabulous mother of at least a dozen kids and was heartbroken when she had to
have a hysterectomy after my sister and I were born. However, after a brief
dance with depression, mom started again speaking the language of mood purposefully;
the Universe saved many lives by introducing mom to the world of adopting
children with brain dysfunctions. As a child my mom had felt forever unwanted
and misunderstood, and she was drawn to save my brothers from that same fate.
were challenged in many ways. Among other things they all landed in various
places on the autism spectrum, so they all had issues to some degree with
communication. The most challenged were the youngest and the oldest of my
brother, the one who sat with me in my kitchen contemplating the language of
the Universe, was echolalic. Though he could say words he only copied what he
heard others say, often creatively using the words and phrases of others to say
new things. Things that would get him what he wanted in the moment.
of my adopted brothers couldn’t speak almost at all. Though he tried and tried;
getting a clear word or sentence out only about once every few months.
I’ll admit I
spent too many years assuming they had nothing to say.
I know now
that I was cruelly mistaken. When I began to put aside my assumptions (and the
assumptions, sadly, that society encouraged in the language of mood) and really
watch my mom with them, I saw true communication. Communication that was far
more real than the gossip and lies and attempts to be cool that my friends and
I were involved in.
My mom and
brothers spoke the language of the Universe. The language of caring, believing,
letting go of judgement, loving, and action.
the language of energy and mood.
(and most autistic people) respond more quickly to energy and mood than words.
This is true, I believe, for most of us. But we also lie with words more
easily, pretending we’re not. We put our words out there to play the game of
lies while we engage also in a battle of moods.
with my brothers, while also always harboring a deep desire to become a writer,
put me in a fantastic position to consider this conundrum.
as a writer words would be my only tool. Words and punctuation are how I would
communicate my stories and ideas. What value could there be in seeing the lie
words often represented?
And here is
the gift. Words are not a lie. They are a powerful, meaningful, and impressive
way to communicate; especially when we distill them down. When we recognize
them as a direct line to our mood and truths.
The joy of
less words, then, becomes the joy of discovering our truth.
I do this
now as a writer. I delight in the tweaking of words, searching for exactly my
I do this
also as a mom, friend, and sister. Although in spoken word I always first use
far too many. That’s fun also!
brother and I had discussed the value of mood for almost a year before I really
understood what I was trying to say, and before I really knew the best way for
my brother to understand it. We had many chatting sessions where we overused
words and followed where they lead. Too many words is often where I start.
life and my family have taught me the value of simplifying and seeking the
truth amidst the mess. Whether I’m looking for the problem within the symptoms,
or the person within the behaviors, or the truth amidst too many words.
I try to
always be intentional and careful, to speak the language of mood, and to honor
the joy and value of less.