This may be a post only parents of autistic children and adults can really ‘get,’ but here goes.
One of the most painful aspects of autism for the parent (and no doubt for siblings and others close to the child) is the profound deficit in shared attention:
Joint [shared] attention occurs when two people share interest in an object or event and there is understanding between the two people that they are both interested in the same object or event.
Joint attention should emerge around 9 months of age and be very well-established by 18 months of age.
A 9-month old baby points. (Right? It’s been a while.)
A 9-month old baby points, and, when you point, s/he follows your finger to see what it is you’re pointing at. Parent and child look at the same thing at the same time, and they do so on purpose because people share.
But autistic babies don’t point. At least, neither of my autistic children pointed. Nor did they react when I pointed.
(Actually, I remember Andrew, I think it was, learning to make the pointing signal, but then he would have both index fingers pointing in different directions. It seemed as if he’d picked up the idea that pointing was a thing, but he hadn’t managed to work out what that thing was, or why we did it.)
Jimmy is 31, Andrew 24. In all of these years, I’ve never experienced, with either son, the kind of intense and shared focus on something — anything! — that I routinely experience with their “neurotypical” brother, C.
Using Katie’s program, Andrew and I will hit a question he absolutely can’t get — and which, in more cases than I care to say, I can’t immediately get, either. (That’s a subject for another day, by the way. Grammar is hard to see, especially when you can’t predict the grammar from content or context. I’ll explain later.)
So the two of us will be sitting there, together, in a shared space with a shared focus and a shared concern, frowning at the screen with all our might, trying to figure out which function word goes where.
And it is an absolute blast. Andrew and I are having the kind of Parent-Adult child bonding that my husband and C. experience watching Eagles games together.
I have to figure something out for Jimmy. (Maybe phonics to start?)
He’s missing all the fun.