Words are not the same thing for those of us on the spectrum as they are for other people.

From the time I entered elementary school as a small boy, I was very conscious of this. I couldn’t  put my thoughts into words then, but fifty or so years later I managed to do it in my novel The Birdcatcher, with the help of character Christopher Stone. Reflecting at one point on why words didn’t work for him the way they did for other people, Chris says:

Most children learn words easily, as if they’re programmed for it, but solitary children are different. We encounter words as if they’re pebbles and shells we’ve found on the beach. We may pick them up and marvel at the beauty and mystery in them, and we may carry them lovingly home with us, but we never fully know what to do with them.

He also says:

There was something below the surface in conversation that I didn’t understand. Words came so easily out of people, so naturally, the way plants emerge from the soil. A guide book to trees will tell you about the shape and color of a tree’s leaves, the pattern of its branching, the texture of its bark, but nothing about its roots. In the same way, the dictionary, my guidebook to words, told me only what words did on the surface. It didn’t explain how they were rooted in the minds of people. 

Thinking of these ideas again, I had this thought – when ‘normal’ people speak, their words seem to come out with emotions attached to them, and those emotions match up with the understanding of other normal people.

I’m sure my words have emotions attached to them too – I’m hardly an emotionless person, though my non-expressive manner often leads people to think I am – but my words don’t match up with what other people expect.

In other words, maybe the problem is that while we are using the same words, from the same language, the words behave as if they are from two different languages – because we are different people.

How you correct that, don’t ask me.

I’ve often wished I could live in a world without words.

But maybe that explains why so many autistic (or shy, or solitary) people get along better with cats and dogs, horses and rabbits, etc, etc, than we do with most of the human race.

3 thoughts on “Autism and Words

  1. This is my first visit to your website and my first reaction to this post is to hug you. An expression without words. There is so much in this post and in your book that I would like to discuss, but for now, your last two paragraphs are my words, with a couple more references.

    Liked by 1 person

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