Think back and imagine those times where you have been on the phone or standing next to someone who is listing off the digits of a phone number as you try to write them down as fast as you can before you forget them. Now imagine that being your life. Imagine living a life where everything said to you was coming in one ear and going out the other like those digits slip out of your head so fast. They are just there long enough for you to think you know what they are, but you still say what???
Welcome to my world. There have been many times that I have said what to someone, not because I can’t hear them, but because I can’t process what they are saying. I know I have had this problem particularly with my mom. I know we have had conversations about it. She has asked me stuff like why do you always say what? I am not hearing impaired, but I do have sensory and processing issues.
This specifically happens when I am asked a question or told to do something. I will frequently ask what??? If you ever notice I only do it once when I ask. I am typically able to get it the second time. My ears hear what you say and my brain receives the information, but it doesn’t process it fast enough to retain much. This may be hard for you to understand so let me try to give you an example.
Lets use the telephone again. I am sitting on the phone and someone rattles off numbers to me. You hear the numbers and you are going through the numbers over and over again in your head as you continue to listen. When the speaker has finished you remember the numbers of the phone number, but you can’t remember what order they are in or you think you know what that number is but your not sure. Someone may say go put your laundry down the chute and I may hear that. I may process it, but it sounds like someone running by. It just felt to fast and by the time you say what, you are pretty sure you know what they said, but its an automatic reflex to ask. They then reply and you are content and ready to move forward.
I also have a problem with conversations. If I am talking to someone I may start to nod my head and say okay, but I may only be getting maybe 70% of what you are saying. I may miss a sentence or two and chime back in. I am sure this happens to everyone, but I have trouble filtering out everything in my environment to focus on just one thing sometimes. I feel as though this was an important lesson I have learned.
Lets take it a step forward and look at how people who have full blown autism look at the world. If I have to ask what all the time, just think about what people with autism may be thinking. Instead of just not interpreting what you are saying, they may very well not even process or pick up on every word you use.
Now think about someone with severe autism and how they may see the world. Think about them being in a situation where they must be productive and follow direction. If they aren’t able to understand what you are saying, they won’t be able to get the job done. You are going to want to use concrete words and basic instructions. It may take more patients, but they are the hardest working individuals. For example if you want them to set the table and you want to tell pick up your backpack, you may want to say pickup backpack. When talking to someone with autism those extra words such as yours are unnecessary. I have been able to learn this from my own aspergers.