Friday, 4 April 2008

Actions speak ...

Louder than words.

Do you ever find yourself trying to speak but the words don't come out? Or they do but its not what you wanted to say? You might be nervous or anxious or shy. Do you find it difficult to get your point across so that people understand? Sometimes writing a letter is easier as you can express yourself better.
Talking is not always straight easy!

My son doesn't speak. I don’t know if C cant or if he has chosen not to. I don’t know if it is an anxiety thing or if its too painful or difficult. He has also refuses to use PECs or signing, or any other assisted communications technology. As C has got older and i understand his autism better i respect these choices, but I will always offer him options as they arise. Such as FC. (You may have heard of Carly)

When C was younger I used to long to hear him speak. I thought speech and language were important. If I am honest I wanted to hear him say ‘mum’ or ‘I love you’ just once. But as he grew without words, i began i realise that he didn't need a voice to say these things as he said them in many other ways.


C learnt at a very early age that head banging was a effective way of communication. So effective that he still uses it, but now it is a last resort.
C is by no means mute, when he is happy his high pitched squeals are ear piercing. And a delight! (the general public may think differently on this one!)

C is very physical in that he rocks, flaps, flicks, paces, jumps, slaps himself all the time. C is reacting to his surroundings. He is communicating.
Amanda Baggs puts it like this
"My language is not about designing words or even visual symbols for people to interpret. It is about being in a constant conversation with every aspect of my environment, reacting physically to all parts of my surroundings.
Far from being purposeless, the way that I move is an ongoing response to what is around me….The way I naturally think and respond to things looks and feels so different from standard concepts or even visualization that some people do not consider it thought at all. But it is a way of thinking in its own right."

Words are only 7% of your communication.
Tone of voice is 38% and the other 55% of our communication is body language.
C uses 100% body language!

84 comments:

Chris H said...

Hee hee, my kids know all about TONE!!! It's not the words you use, its how us project them that makes the impact! And lets not forget facial experssions! *insert evil laugh here*

Honeysuckle said...

It's a fascinating subject. Have studies been done on autistic people as friends with each other? - do they ever communicate with each other as opposed to reacting to the environment?

Casdok said...

C dosnt do friends. But as C reacts if anyone gets near him, the answer is yes. And he usualy says "keep away from me"!

Rosie said...

my musicians dont use many words to communicate but they do use sounds. And touch. But everyone is different... that is the joy...

Debstar said...

Hi Casdok,
I've just finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon which is written through the eyes of a lad with AS.

I wonder if you've read it. I'm guessing probably as it's been out for about 5 years now. If not, and you're interested, go to my blog 'cause I've just written about it.

It's funny how I keep running across stuff about autism since I started reading your blog.

Sweet Irene said...

That certainly makes everything very clear and the one with the least amount of body language has the least amount to say! I must pay attention to that, even when it is miniscule.

Sass E-mum said...

That's a useful perspective for me to read about. I can identify with it - before children, I couldn't bear the sound of their shrieking. Now... I love their uninhibited response to the world.

DJ Kirkby said...

I completly relate to C's chosen form of communication, much more honest and instictive than the majority of that chosen by the majority of NT's. I wonder what he would make of dolphins and porpoises? I expect they would connect instantly!

Casdok said...

Yes would be interesting. Do you know of anyone with a dolphin?!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Body language is the most important part of communication I always think, BG

Elissa said...

A fabulous insight into the language of so many!

I'm finding that as I delve further into my 'autism spectrum' learning, that much of what I am discovering is so 'connected' and 'simply honest'.

A great post!

the mother of this lot said...

The boy's a genius!

(Obviously takes after his mother).

buffalodickdy said...

Sat through more than one lecture on this with regards to selling/communications...

bart said...

thanks for an insightful and worthwhile blog... i've arrived here via lane's blog, have more than enough experience with mental "illness" and depressed behaviour... your input here on autism was very enlightening... thank you and keep up the good work

keep well...

Dave Coulter said...

What a great idea! I should start a rent-a-dolphin business!

PI said...

That made me think how much one can convey with a look. Does C use looks as well as body language?

Casdok said...

Pi - His body is a better gauge.
As C doesnt point to thing i follow where he looks.

Jen said...

Autistic kids as friends...one of my daughters has a number of autistic friends, and it's fascinating to see the way that they communicate with each other. My daughter's pretty verbal now (some of her friends are, some aren't), and they certainly DO manage to make themselves understood to each other.

My son is non-verbal, but communicates in many different ways with his body language...one of the things that I find interesting is that if his workers or I can't figure out what he's "saying", often his sisters can. I don't know whether that's an autism thing or a triplet thing, but my kids often act as "interpreters" for each other.

Flea said...

I'd like to rent a dolphin, please. Especially now that I live in Oklahoma instead of Florida.

laughingwolf said...

wow! amazing info, thx cas :)

Marla said...

Very well said. It is amazing how much we all say with no words. C knows this way better than any of us.

Phil Plasma said...

Words are only 7% of communication when face to face, but in this blogosphere, it is 100%.

CrazyCath said...

Thanks for sharing this. And your previous two posts - I knew the one about the "famous" people who may have been autistic. That makes me feel less ignorant!

Everyone makes an impact on this world. Everyone.

And non verbal communication can be the loudest of all.

Odat said...

This is sooo true...I see with my Mom...who has beginning Alzheimers...She only says a few words now...other times I sit with her for hours and know exactly what she's saying without words!
Peace

Suzy said...

And what beautiful body language it is...

Still glancing at that photo of him in the go-kart. THAT says it all.

Love to you and C

Suzy

Get Off My Lawn! said...

I often stop before responding to a question or before befroe saying somethin I think is important. I try to choose my words carefully so no one can misunderstand. Usually, this makes people think I am ignoring them. I have had to learn how to express physically that I am thinking on how best to proceed with the conversation. Drives people nuts and frustrates me. C must feel this frustration on occasion.

"Leelee" said...

my son is nonverbal as well.he used to have maybe 10 word but now he doesnt use any.i also do not know if it is because he chooses not to or if it is painful.He uses alot of body language to comunicate and I understand him very clearly.He squeels and has his happy dance and I know all is well.Isnt this the best when they do this!Nothing like the happiness of children!

Ron said...

I share with my friend, that I think her son is probably MORE aware of the "energy" of communication; much more than the "words" themselves.

(sometimes words get in the way, ya know?)

I really enjoyed what Amanda says here: "It is about being in a constant conversation with every aspect of my environment..."

Thanks for a wonderful post, dear lady!

Have a great weekend!

TEOM said...

C sounds like a wonderful - if sometimes hard - teacher.

Michael Manning said...

Casdok: I saw a new electronic invention used with Autistic children that seemed amazing. It transmitted brainwave activity into the English language and it was a Joy to hear completely normal thoughts and feelings. Have you heard of this? This was all new to me.

Have a nice Friday!

Cyndi said...

That's interesting. Matthew has some words but lately he's just been repeating lines from videos (real words mixed with babble). I believe it's called Echolalia. It's as if he wants to say soemthing and show that he does have a voice but the wires get crossed in his brain. I just don't know what to do with this...do I let him repeat these lines over and over or try to redirect him?...I just wish I knew better how to help him -sigh-

Melissa said...

Funny how the more "advanced" we become, the less we understand. You've got me thinking.

Lane said...

Interesting as always. I can well believe that words are only 7% of communication. Body language speaks volumes and there's little room for misinterpretation.

Judith said...

Learning more and more ...

Akelamalu said...

Body language often says more than words can ever do!

Motherhood for Dummies said...

YOu are soooo discribing my nephew. He was very physical too...walking, pacing, flipping things around, random busts of running and squeels! :)

Hey also wanted to let you know I tagged you for a meme over at my page. I don't know if you have already done it, but I actually think this some is kind of fun

Traceytreasure said...

Casdok, I'm always learning something new here! It's such a treat! I was a late talker. I didn't have much to say when I was old enough to talk, but didn't. I was able to communicate though. I like my voice now but I'm learning that I would rather read than speak. It's kind of nice! I hope you and C have a wonderful weekend! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Hugs!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

C is a very bright young man. Through you, he is teaching us on a daily basis the joys and fascination of living with autism. He is a wonderful human being.

CJ xx

Mima said...

I'm learning so much from you about Autism, I knew that words weren't much of overall communication, but had no idea they were as little as 7%. Was it frustrating to start with learning what C meant by various things, or did it come to you fairly easily. I know that we learn to read the people that are around us better than those that we don't know, but am still astounded by the 55% body language.

Mrs. C said...

I'm selfish. I would not be as understanding as you in your situation, Casdok. I would want that boy to call me Mum and SAY SOMETHING even if it took years of speech therapy for him to learn.

Can I ask... did you force therapies on him for a time before giving up, or was there a sort of a grieving process you went through to come to acceptance?

I am NOT THERE YET, even with my almost 13-y-o on the spectrum who can speak just fine, but I wish what he had to say wasn't so hurtful and angry sometimes.

You do not have to answer this personal question if you don't want to. I *imagine* other people reacting to situations just like me, but sometimes they sure don't LOL!!

Jessica said...

Before we knew about Wes' diagnosis, his lack of speech was a concern, but not a great one. I always knew what he wanted by his body or by the sounds he made. It is very interesting. Now that his speech is slowly emerging, I still rely on his body language more then the spoken language.

Casdok said...

Mima, C was as frustrated as i was! To begin with much guess work, and i still dont always get it right, but he does let me know when i dont!

Mrs C - Ive never forced therapies on him, the severity of his headbanging would never allow this even if i had wanted to.
He has had speach therapy for as long as i can remember and is still on going, speach therapy isnt just about talking.
Because he has never spoken its not something he has lost, so not really something to grieve about if you see what i mean? And other things were more important - like how to stop him hurting himself and getting him to eat.
Ive always accepted C for C and give him oppourtunities, so i wouldnt say i have given up on him.
Hope that makes sense!

Jim said...

Often words do not many anything without actions. Actions must be followed with words which is why we humans need to see actions more than words.

Words are just empty when someone don't mean it. More often, I am blunt.

Niksmom said...

Oh the resonance of this post within my heart today...

Yes, Nik is "verbal" in that he makes sounds (sing-song pitches, squeals, grunts) but I always look at his face and his body language to help me understand. The quote from Amanda is wonderful. Thanks for that one.

Mima said...

Casdok, thanks for answering that, and I'm glad that you are able to mostly understand him now, but I can understand that it was frustrating for you both when you were learning! I should also imagine that he has to go through that learning curve each time with new carers. If I think that is frustrating for me, it is nothing to what it must be like for C. Stay strong and sending you happy thoughts.

Sandpiper said...

Fantastic post, Casdok. I don't know a lot about autism, but it's interesting to me. I grew up with a brother who was deaf, and a combination of sign language and speaking "normally" was a part of our lives. Living with somebody who faces challenges is a challenge for everybody, but within each challenge is a lesson, and in a strange way, a unique beauty that I wouldn't trade for anything and neither would he.

Ellee Seymour said...

And speaking is something we all take for granted. Our body language and facial expressions say so much more, that's very true.

bobbie said...

We do learn to interpret our children's body language, even when they can speak. It often says far more than their words. But I am trying to imagine 19 years without speech. You have had a long and difficult struggle, learning to interact with your son. But what joy it must be when you succeed!

Dr.John said...

Your right he does communicate but it still has to be hard for you .

Kahless said...

I agree, words are a small part of overall communication.

CC said...

well posted!

Raven said...

Very interesting. So true about words being only 7%... body language and tone are huge. I will occasionally say wicked cranky things to my cats in a loving tone and it is the tone that carries the power... along with body language.

You are so verbally eloquent that this must be quite a journey for you and a great lesson in expanding the boundaries of what we think of as communication.

whimsical brainpan said...

C is lucky to have a Mom that cares enough to really listen to him.

just jamie said...

I'm fairly new to your blog, but I am so truly happy that you are giving a voice to C, and autism. Beautiful and compelling. You have a gift.

vivavavoom said...

my son has his own language due to his cognitive auditory processing delay.It is backwards, and more apparent when nervous. but it has grown to be endearing, and I totally speak his language....as you speak C's. I know you always say you are lucky to have him...he is also very lucky to have you!!! have a great weekend you two!

geosaru said...

I use body language for most of my communication. One thing I have noticed is that I am much more adept at reading the body language and understanding the intent behind words of other autistics, and it is amazing how frequently the special services staff misunderstand. It's a very high percentage of times.

I think it's because a lot of people don't immerse themselves in the nuances of autistic body language (which isn't all that different from other people's body language, but there are some barely identifiable differences that somehow result in much misunderstanding). I think the main thing contributing to this is the idea that by default any miscommunication involving an autistic person is the autistic person's fault. My mom understands this, which I am grateful for.

Jocelyn said...

I can never read one of your posts without admiring the sheer love you have for C. And that Baggs quote is phenomenal.

SnoopMurph said...

I loved reading about C and how he communicates. One of my students does not speak, but every so often, he will dance about and squeal. It is delightful to see him. He loves music and responds with increased eye contact and movement. I know he is telling me great things and I just have to pay attention in a different way.

You are a beautiful writer and advocate for your son.

Eileen said...

I love when you post about C. Your love for him shine through so clearly in every word, as does your ability to understand what he is communicating with his body language. You are so in tuned to him, his wants, his needs, his whole being. What a wonderful mother you are. Thanks for sharing these personal insights.
XOXO

ChainingMagic said...

My boys are all about body language as well! My daughter is very verbal and can be hurtful at times but she gives me a lot of hugs.

I've had a LOT of issues between food and my kids.

Kelley said...

Beautiful my lovely. Simply beautiful.

Boo didn't speak for the longest time. I prayed and pleaded with the universe to let him say 'mummy' or 'I love you'. Boo now speaks, but 99% of it is echolalia. I love his voice, his singing, the funny things that he comes out with that are echolalic but in the most appropriate moments. Or bizarre. But when he hands me something and looks at me, when he touches my face to make me look at something, when he brushes my hand on purpose.. Those are the real moments of communication. They are the times that my heart catches in my throat and I want to cry with happiness.

Mrs. C said...

Casdok, it makes *perfect* sense and now of course my wording looks quite insensitive. I hope you know "what I meant." You know, that nice tone in my voice when I was "talking" to ya! ;]

I know with Emperor, he did a little ABA and it was HARD to hear him squall and cry when we all knew what he wanted but we had to get him to EXPRESS himself "properly" without howling. I felt I was forcing this on him, but I also feel that without that help he may NEVER have gained those abilities.

He is still an "extremely interesting character" and folks in the local WalMart will come up and ask if he's autistic. Nope. Not diagnosed, anyway. What's the point? Is he going to get extra therapy time at homeschool? LOL!

mommy~dearest said...

Very nice post! It's so true that words are not the only form of language, and language is not the whole of communication.

MarmiteToasty said...

Your information and knowledge about Autism is an inspiration and a guide to a better understanding for everyone......

(((((((casdok))))))))) fank you for being here to teach so many of us so very much about so many aspects of life.....

OXO

Casdok said...

Mrs C :) I know its sometimes difficult to get the right tone in a comment, so its fine. And im sure you asked the questions that other people would have asked to, so i think its good that you questioned me. Ive been told C has oral dyspraxia, so even if he was forced it wouldnt make any difference.
Human traits are interesting arnt they!

Deb said...

Katie doesn't talk either, although last year one word did pop up, mumumumum. Which made me very happy. Fortunately Katie signs but she also uses gestures and noises very effectively. She has so many different noises for different situations, joy, fear, anxiety, tattling, etc. And she's very noisy. Katie is also highly social and although we live in a large city, a lot of people know her by name and by site.

Michael Manning said...

Casdok: I am stubborn enough to believe that we will witness a breakthrough and those who are quiet will begin to speak.

Genevieve Hinson said...

I saw Amanda Baggs video and then went searching for more videos and ran across Cs happy one.

I have to say I was moved in a way I can't put into words yet. I went into raising awareness this month thinking of others -- but I'm finding my own awareness has increased tenfold. What I thought I knew about autism -- was just a scratch.

I only know my own son. I've been so focused on him, I haven't really looked around. Now, I'm starting to see the rest of the world.

Amanda said...

I am honored that you came over to my blog and left a comment. I have read a little of yours and I will take the time to sit and read more as soon as I get a chance. You sure have a way of putting things in perspective.

Palm Springs Savant said...

I have to tell you, that since I started following your blog some time ago I've learned so much. You always have interesting posts, I enjoy visiting.
rick

Debs said...

Fascinating post as usual.

motherx said...

I have to agree with you on this one, W uses 100 percent body language. If he is hurt or angry he will come up to me and bash his head against my arm. This is normally followed by loud screeching. Failing that he will run and pinch his brother! I do wish he would talk though...

Kahless said...

Casdok, I think you will like this clip and it is related to your post I think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnylM1hI2jc

Amy said...

This post was so interesting. Thanks for sharing. I wish you and C well. =)

Momma said...

I know this may seem irrelevant, but I was just thinking today how much I understand from my cat, just by observing her. She communicates volumes with the squint of her eyes, the flick of her tail, or the way her back ripples in anticipation of a good stroke.

It's the same with children who are differently-abled. My son has Asperger's and I worried over him so much when he was younger. He is doing fantastic now, but he just developed in his own way in his own time.

I love your blog. Keep up the great work!

Peace - D

Angela said...

Even talk can get mixed up.
I am sure you know what he wants better than anyone else

Nancy Bea Miller said...

Someone just asked me today if my son Henry (14 year old boy with "low-functioning" autism) speaks. I started to say "Yes, of course!" but then realized he doesn't speak in a way that a casual onlooker would understand, i.e.verbally. Lots of facial expression , body positioning, context clues etc. So I had to say "Well, not really, but sort of!" I got a funny look and the other person was probably thinking "And you don't speak very well either obviously!" ;-)

Patti said...

Casdok, your blog is not only educational, it's always inspirational.

I never knew body language contributed that much to our communication. And that words contributed so little! I am not a big talker, wonder what that means.

Punkys Dilemma said...

Thank you Cas. Its not so much that I understand body language. At least not with my little pumpkin. Her beautiful little body happens to be stuck in the twisted nightmare of having cerebral palsy. She's unable to walk, talk, sit or stand. But its in her eyes that she is able to tell me her life story, from day to day. I wish so badly too that she was able to tell me she loved me. One day Cas. One day, they will be able to.

At 19, I've learned a few things about my daughter as well. And have so much more to know about her! But at 19, there is much that I've come to accept about her. And like you....I will remain open to anything new!

VBF! said...

Woah.. this post actually made me teary!

I could imagine it would be a difficult adjustment to have your own child not phisically speak out. But that is so awesome that you completely understand him in is own language.

Beautiful :-) xx

Grit said...

you make my world a more complete place, casdok!

titration said...

Somedays I think life would be better if I was 100% body language as well. :)

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Interestingly when we had a two deaf dogs I learned just how much we use our bodies to communicate. Quite often people don't even realise what they are 'saying'.

monsoon-dreams said...

cas,
a very touching post,i must say.