Autism – Things Aren’t Always As They Seem

by Mindy Kaleta on October 24, 2014

Mother Daughter communication (1)Wow!  As I was browsing facebook yesterday, I came across  a link about an autistic boy and his new-found relationship with Siri, Apple’s “intelligent personal assistant” on the iPhone .  CLICK HERE for the New York Times story. It was extremely eye-opening. Being the Mom of an autistic daughter, this service “Siri” would have been quite handy at times for a number of reasons.

1) Siri is always there to ask a question

How many of you moms are/or were inundated with question after question when your kids were little. And if you are a Mom of a child with issues, lasting many years, it can be exhausting. But with Siri, she doesn’t get tired of the questions and she expresses little to no emotion in her voice. If she does not understand the question, she may repeatedly say, “I don’t understand the question”, but then that just gives the child an opportunity to look for more ways to ask the question. Something that autistic kids could use; more practice in expressing themselves!

2) Siri can connect them to all kinds of information that we probably would never have thought about!

Such as in the article when he asked “What planes are above me right now?”  And Siri gave him resources to discover that very thing! And not for the reason his Mom thought.  She was wondering, why would you want to know that? And he replied, “So you know who you’re waving at, Mommy.”  Hmmmm…Priceless!

But this is the part that really struck home:

3) Siri is “logical”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have an iphone and based on my experience with “Siri”, I pretty much stopped using her. I thought she was rude, obnoxious and a little mean!  She never could give me the answers to my questions and so I thought, ya know, Siri is pretty much useless. (sorry Apple…I love your products, but this is what I really felt!)

After reading this article, something jumped out at me and gave me a whole new perspective on not only my iphone and “Siri”, but my relationship with my daughter. And here it is:

If you have an autistic child or maybe a very logical child, you know that sometimes they can be perceived as rude, disrespectful and mean.  But seeing how this child and many others were interacting with Siri, it became clear to me that maybe they were just being honest, forthright and actually stating their feelings, which we always thought they were never doing!  Expressing their feelings in the only way that they know how, may come off as rude or curt to us, but that’s just how they are wired!

Then I thought back on the times when I would get angry with her for doing the very things that we want our autistic children to do; communicate with us and state their feelings.  For example, when I would place clean sheets on her bed and before I could even get back downstairs she would have them ripped off and thrown down the laundry chute saying, “I hate the smell of clean sheets!”  (occasionally I would dry the sheets out on the line and that would really send her into a spin!) I would often take that as an offense, thinking…”look how much time and effort it took for me to make sure you have nice clean sheets and you don’t even care!”

She was not trying to be rude, but trying to tell me how much the smell of the sheets bothered her, how much those sheets would keep her from getting a good night’s sleep, how much pain it would cause her to constantly sniff them all night long!  Was I to never wash her sheets? No, but I could maybe find a scent that she did like and try to accommodate her sense of smell with something that was pleasant. That thought didn’t even enter my mind. I was too caught up in the struggle, too exhausted and ill-equipped to even try “one-more-thing”, as I was always searching books, internet and council from doctors, social workers, teachers to learn how in the world to help her and keep this child happy! (is this just me, or does any of this sound familiar?) And I could name many more instances where similar things have occurred, as I’m sure, if you are in this situation too, difficult experiences are flooding your brain as well!

To say this has been humbling reading this article, is an understatement. Was I a terrible mother?  No. Did I love my child? Yes. Do I still want the very best that life has to offer for her? Absolutely!  But looking back, I wish I had the tools, the insight, the energy and patience to be Siri.  I know that Siri isn’t really human and so she has a one-up on the rest of us without having to deal with all the emotions, the tiredness and wracking our brains for better solutions. But as I said, she really would have come in handy for a Mom of an autistic child.

Thanks for listening! I hope that if you have any thoughts, stories or insights to share with me on this topic, please meet up with me on my facebook page Ladybugs-a-Plenty! and let’s chat a bit. We are all in this thing together.  And we should not be too hard on ourselves. Life, with all it’s sorrows and joys, is certainly a learning experience!  And that’s what it’s all about! 🙂

Much love and happiness and of course, wishing you lots and lots of Ladybugs!

Mindy xoxo





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