What do Children with Autism Think About?
What does my son think about during those times when he’s in his own little world? Is he lonely? Is he sad? Is he processing the events of the day? Or is he memorizing again – maybe pii to the 40th decimal or the names of all the American Presidents by state, by party and by hair color?
I know Connor’s thoughts are a private matter. I also realize what all parenting coaches advise, “Parents shouldn’t try to own their children’s pain; they should let them work it out on their own.” But that doesn’t seem fair since my son is only now getting to a point where he can talk about his feelings.
I just need to know that he’s isn’t unhappy. I used to worry about that day and night – far too much – but I couldn’t help myself. And then I read a book. A wonderful children’s book called In My Mind: Through the Eyes of Autism by Adonya Wong, and all of a sudden, I wasn’t quite as worried anymore. Because Adonya doesn’t know what’s going on in her son’s head, either, but she thinks his thoughts are good, happy and full of wonderful ideas. And I believe her.
In My Mind: The World through the Eyes of Autism by Adonya Wong
“In my mind, I see many colors, bright like a rainbow,
shooting about like comets in a night sky.”
Take a closer look. What do you see?
In My Mind explores the inner world of an autistic child –
the world that no one else can see.
From exciting adventures to silly games and conversations with friends, look closely
and see how a child with autism sees the world; and how the world sees him. http://throughtheeyesofautism.wordpress.com/
0 thoughts on “What do Children with Autism Think About?”
When I was ‘deep in’ in my preteen years, I was working on thought experiments about how light works, what 4 dimensions looks like, and exactly how I’d have to construct a set of wings made with real feathers that would support my weight, and I even had the feather count and wingspan down to the mathematical nth. I was thrilled when I saw the first hang glider on tv. (I’m nearly 50.) I wasn’t sad, I didn’t think about my *self*. I enjoyed thought, enjoyed seeing patterns like leaves blowing (generations before us had more time to lay in the grass and watch the world), wondered how the clouds worked (again, thrilled when chaos theory came out). Don’t worry about the ‘solitude’ you perceive in your kiddo. Mine was very full of awesomely cool things.
“Parents shouldn’t try to own their children’s pain; they should let them work it out on their own.” is not very good advice. The logic is horrendous. Are there really only two choices? (1) vicariously adopt their pain or (2) let them deal with it all by themselves. Neither of these are very good choices. Obviously, pain isn’t something you can take away by just vicariously feeling what you imagine that they are feeling. Leaving them to work things out on their own assumes that children have the tools and ability to work out their problems on their own. But do they?
There are other choices. Empathy can lessen the sting of the pain. And helping them sort through their emotions can also be beneficial. For many kids it is very difficult to talk about feelings. Parents need to be calm and not overly judgmental (or at least not just build and attack straw men) when they discuss feelings.
As an aspie myself, I’ve always been far more logical than verbal, so as a child I found it difficult to get adults to understand and answer the things that I really wanted to know about. Personally I wanted to see the big picture on why the world had to be so painful. Normally I got fluffy or totally dissatisfying answers. Not that I blame the adults who were around me, but I asked questions which were “too deep” or “too philosophical” for little children to ask. When I was upset I wasn’t really up to listening to a long explanation. When I wasn’t upset there wasn’t an immediate need to lay out a philosophical perspective, so they didn’t bother. Instead they left me to figure out things for myself. I pulled back and played a lot of games in my head. Around the time I was in kindergarten I became a committed solipsist — I believed that I was the only person alive and everyone else was a projection in my head. I basically rejected this view sometime in second grade, I think. Attempts to talk about these things with adults were a waste of time. I didn’t even know the word solipsist and they wouldn’t have understood me at all.
Emotions are closer to the intuitions that people have — the things that we feel have a connexion to the things that we just feel are right. It is difficult if not impossible to reconcile emotions/intuitions with sound logic. I think that this is a major part of the problem since pain often occurs when what we want is out of reach. We keep alternating between focussing on our emotions related to what we want and then on our logic & attempts to reach what we want. And we keep on winding up disappointed, hence in pain.
So to try to connect all of this: (1) Don’t worry aboutt your son’s little world — it is probably quite comfortable and satisfying for him. (2) Be on the lookout for areas where his world is in conflict with your world/the real world. Help to try to give him the time he needs to prepare for things and help him analyse & understand his feelings. (3) Be willing to answer atypical questions from him. Some questions which seem odd to adults make complete sense to the kid asking them. When he asks you questions he is offering you a glimpse into his private thoughts, world, and perspective. Don’t miss out on it — just because it’s hard to find the right words or doesn’t seem the right time. Share the part of the world that he wants to share with you. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.