what’s that, lassie? timmy fell in the well?


One of the first things that one learns as the parent of a child with autism is that all behavior is communication. There is no action that doesn’t serve a purpose. It may be to express frustration; it may be to fulfill a sensory need; it may be to ask for help. It may be to get our attention and it may be to escape a situation that isn’t working. But no matter what, every single thing we do communicates something.

As parents of kids who in many cases have no other means of expressing themselves than through their actions, we spend an awful lot of time playing detective – watching the patterns, searching for clues and ultimately trying desperately to figure out what it is that our children need. For so long I referred to myself as Encyclopedia Brown – constantly trying to crack the case of What Brooke Is Trying To Tell Me.

In the second part of the Dear You letter yesterday, I told you that one of the reasons you rock is because you use what you’ve learned as the parent of a special needs child in every other aspect of your life. Well, so do I. In this case, what I’ve learned is that behavior is communication for EVERYBODY. For me, for my husband, for my NT kid, for my co-workers, for the guy at Starbucks and hell, even my darn dogs. ESPECIALLY my darn dogs.

Sometimes their motivation remains a mystery. I’ll never know if Lucy chewed Katie’s school project beyond recognition because she wanted attention or simply because she really needed to chew something and it was just too tempting to leave be.

But sometimes, it’s a little simpler.

In fact, sometimes, it’s crystal clear.

Winston, an hour before dinner

15 thoughts on “what’s that, lassie? timmy fell in the well?

  1. My son frequently uses this same tactic! We have PECs for him, but let’s face it, this cuts out the middle man! He can also do the puppy dog eyes 🙂

  2. I’m not following what Winston is trying to express.

    Did you ever see “The Man With Two Brains”? It’s overall a bad movie but there’s a scene that never fails to make me laugh. Steve Martin is about to marry a woman who is BAD NEWS. So he stands in front of a portrait of . . . I can’t remember. . . the new fiance, I think. . . and he appeals to god, “If there’s a reason why I shouldn’t marry this woman, give me some kind of sign.” And the portrait falls off it’s hook, and lightning strikes and there’s an earthquake and a few other things. . . and Steve says, “any sign at all. . . ”

    I didn’t even cry once at this post. You’re trying something new, aren’t you?

  3. Har!! Our dogs are a great study for ASD…they have such great social skills! They always greet guests at the door, and make them feel welcome (mine tries to french kiss them.) They always walk them to the door and act sad they are leaving. They initiate play, with non-verbal but clear gestures, and try to engage others of us in the game if only one of us is playing (catch with my spouse, but she’ll bring the ball to me to get me to play too.) They reference; that’s what “heel” is all about. If we get disengaged with a game, they’ll try to repair the interaction; in chase, if I get discouraged I can’t catch her, she’ll start running slower, and closer to me to get me to play again. Tears send her into a lick-n-nuzzle frenzy. No dogs with ASD.

  4. Sometimes behavior is simple and communication is clear. I love when I have to put on my super hero cape and figure it out because then I really feel like I have earned my mom badge for the day!

  5. Wait, is he trying to say something?

    I’m with blogginglily (well, and with everyone who loves this picture, which must be everyone who breathes oxygen)– this reminded me of the many, mostly funny but not always, moments when my kids are just as clear…and I totally miss the point. Next time that happens, you know I’m going to have a vision of Winston.


  6. Love it!! Anybody else flash on Snoopy from the Peanuts cartoons.. Classic! It constantly amazes me how in-tune we get with the special people in our lives to read the cues.

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