The Denver Autism Wheel

Idioms: How I came to realize I don’t speak the same language as Ian

Posted on: July 14, 2010

Idiom:  an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket or hang one’s head. 

For additional examples, here is a great list of some common idioms:

When Ian was first diagnosed on Spectrum at age 5.5, he’d already been receiving speech therapy since he was 2.5.  His awesome therapist (who we received through Child Find and Developmental Pathways) and I had been talking about how “concrete” Ian was in his thinking.  Similarly concrete was his approach to that all-encompassing word “language.” 

I work for a large company and have several people from different countries that are on my team.  I thought I had been pretty well trained in avoiding idioms or at least being aware of them.  Then, one morning at the table, Ian had been playing with a toy and not eating breakfast. 

“Hand it over,” I said.  Nothing.  No response.

“Ian, hand it over,” I said.  I got a look up and something else I didn’t quite catch.  Deep breath, reminded myself again — give him time to process.  Counted to ten, as slowly as I could.  Nothing.

“Ian, hand it over.” 

This time, I caught it.  Those beautiful blue eyes of his very quickly looked at his hand and looked up.

“Ian, put it in my hand.”  Bang.  The offending toy was there in my hand before the letter “d “came out of my mouth.

 Now that he’s a little older, he’s much better about asking me about idioms.  The other day when he heard “when he lost his head” on a show, Ian said “you can lose your head????”  “No, Sweetie, it just means that somebody is super-excited.  Like when you watch your favorite show about two brothers who build super-cool stuff and they’re about to ride it for first time?  Just like that.”

Sometimes our job is being an interpreter for our children.  Other times it’s our job to remind the folks who work with our kids (including ourselves) how easy it is to lose them with a few simple words on a path to the best of both worlds.  🙂

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