Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Autism Answer: The Editor in me (knows this is too long! tee hee!)

I paid close attention in elementary school to lessons regarding proper English and grammar. I knew that I wanted to grow-up to be a writer, and so understanding when to use an apostrophe or when to start a new paragraph mattered to me. As soon as I would learn a new writing rule, I would implement it and suddenly start seeing mistakes and typos where I hadn't seen them before.

Eventually I quit school and quit learning grammar. I continued to notice elementary school type mistakes and continued to use commas where I learned to use them as an attentive fourth grade student, but more sophisticated language lessons were lost on me. And so, if there was a typo--mine or someone else's-- not only would I not notice the mistake, but I wouldn't even know it AS a mistake!

Now that I am writing more publicly and am a sometimes editor for my mom's articles and books, I have looked up and studied a bit more about writing rules and language use. Interestingly, now I see many more mistakes and "wrong" choices when I read. Now I look at articles or Autism Answers I wrote long ago and writing that once made me proud is filled with eyesores and improper semi-colons.

However, the meaning and ideas I was presenting are still something I can be proud of! Even the ones I no longer agree with read to me like steps in a beautiful direction.

So now, as a writer, editor, mom and sharer of ideas, I spend a little time trying to make sure my presentation is proper, but I spend WAY more time making sure I'm saying what I mean.

When we teach our children and ourselves that "this is right"' and "this is wrong" we start seeing it and feeling it where before we hadn't. Stimming, rocking, flapping, jumping, flicking, poking, clucking-- and more-- are common with our autistic loved ones, and there is nothing wrong with them. Until we say that there is. Then we begin an unfortunate feedback loop where we see it as wrong they see it as wrong and what used to feel good (or else why would they do it?) becomes something they dislike about themselves. They notice others doing similar things yet not being told that it's wrong; seeing dancers celebrated for jumping and flapping while they are being told not to.... it's confusing!!

Social rules exist for a reason and are helpful. Just like proper writing rules exist to help us better communicate. But all of these rules were made up by people in order to feel comfortable and effective when communicating with people, and not one of them is inherently right or wrong. That's not to say don't teach! Quiet the opposite! Teach ideas and rules as tools for connection and communication! Feel free to show your family why flicking a strangers hair won't help them make friends and might make the stranger nervous. Get a kick out of talking about how using the *eff* word too often might mean missing out on invitations to parties.

I paid close attention in elementary school to writing rules because I wanted to be a writer. Our children will pay close attention to friendship and social rules, because everyone wants to be liked and accepted! The motivator is there to be exploited!

Teach and show and example and explain social rules by always taking great care to highlight and reveal meanings and attitudes.

As advocates for autism many of us have become figurative (and literal!) editors, writers and sharers of ideas. It's important that we step back always and make sure, regardless of where we think we should place our semi-colons and commas, that our meaning is clear.

Of course, we don't all have exactly the same meaning! But I'm confident most of us are advocating for people to respect and accept all people; understanding that though we are not all the same, we are all equally valuable. 

No matter what punctuation you prefer!!

*It is no secret that I am a huge fan of the exclamation point!! It's so much fantastical fun!!!

Hugs, smiles and love!!

"You keep what you keep your eye on." ~Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad