By Cynthia Kim
Behavior is communication.
This has become a catchphrase in the autism community. And for good reason. It’s certainly true.
A child runs from a store and experts assure the frustrated parent that behavior is communication.
A parent asks for advice about why their recently diagnosed child bursts into tears at bathtime and experienced parents nod in sympathy. “Behavior is communication,” they say.
A child refuses to eat anything but raw carrots and pancakes and the child’s occupational therapist isn’t the least bit surprised. Behavior is communication.
A child flaps at a wind-up toy that’s stopped moving and the experts . . . somberly intone that the child doesn’t know how to communicate . . . that he isn’t aware of the adults around him and is “trapped in his own world”, unable to share his joy with others.
An adult walks away from an autism researcher who is treating him as less than competent, preferring instead to tend his garden, and . . . cue the tragic music as the researcher looks on gravely and the viewer is made to believe that the autistic adult simply doesn’t know how to have a proper conversation.
What’s going on here?
Why is certain behavior treated as communication and other behavior treated as a failure to communicate, often in the same person?
Somehow a phrase that started out as a positive step toward understanding autistic behavior in the absence of language has become associated primarily with meltdowns, self-injurious stimming, eloping and other obvious signs of distress.
Why is that? Do autistic people only communicate distress through their behavior?
In case the answer to that question isn’t obvious: No, we communicate a whole range of emotions and messages. But much of it seems to get lost in translation…
Read this post in its entirety at Musings of an Aspie: http://wp.me/p2GP9Z-yC