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Rhonda Valentine Dixon

Lin and Language

The acquisition of language in a child with Autism and Semantic Pragmatic Disorder is fascinating.  (It seems that the names of the disorders change every time America’s Psychiatric Association updates the Diagnostic Manual.  SPD has changed but I’m sticking with SPD because that’s what I’ve always called it.  Just Google it if you want clarity.)

In the early years we tried to teach our Lin sign language, but his muscle tone was so low that he could not sustain the movements.  Then we tried Facilitated Communication.  That was brilliant.  It was an absolute boon to his life.  At long last he could communicate.  He also used a Canon Communicator for a while.  It was a device about the size of a transistor radio or calculator.  It had the QWERTY keyboard on and when the keys were pressed the writing came out of the side of the machine on paper tape.  He was still using the Canon when he went into grade one.  The paper tape could break off just like the tape on a Sellotape dispenser and he could then paste the tape into his school books.  We had to abandon the Canon though because he got great delight out of scaring the pants of his class mates by clicking the alarm button. 

Then later, when we knew he could cope with holding a pen or pencil there was no stopping him. He wrote and wrote and wrote.  He was writing numerals from one to one million for many months.  He’d leave out the occasional thousand or so, but he was getting stimulation, which he didn’t get from interacting with people and he could count way beyond anyone else his age, so I didn’t worry about it.  It gave me some quiet time. And if he took pages to school to continue his counting, it gave teachers an indication that there were interesting things going on in his lovely woolly head. We encountered one or two teachers along the way who didn’t think he belonged in the mainstream. My perception was that if a child could count into the hundreds of thousands in grade one, he had every right to be in the mainstream.  

For most people the construction of their writing, the forming of the letters on the page, evolves.  Lin’s has stayed the same.  No one told him he needed to change, and he’s never imagined he needed to change.   So, his writing is still large and naïve like a grade one person would write.

If he did speak, because of the Semantic Pragmatic Disorder, he would utter the subliminal sounds he heard with the language.  All sound had the same significance.  Then when he wrote stories, he would write the words his story prompted in his memory.  For instance, as seen is the story that follows, which he wrote this morning 8 April 2019, he has included the names of the videos in which the characters ride motorcycles.  The videos came to mind because he is talking about going for a motor cycle ride with the real people mentioned in the first part of the story.  (I have not included the surnames of the people he mentions because I don’t have their permission to put their names on my media, however Lin has put them in his story.)  Also evident in this piece is the incorrect use of pronouns.  There has always been confusion in comprehending the you/me dichotomy for Lin.  I spent many hours in front of a mirror with him trying to help him to understand this concept (and others).  He says ‘your clothes’ when he means ‘my clothes’.   The confusion with the pronouns is common in people with SPD.

Anyway, here is the story as he wrote it (with his punctuation.)  I think that he’s hoping the ladies mentioned in the first part of the story might take Jessica B, Lin and the guys on a motorcycle ride as happened recently at the Blue Care facility.  That prompted thoughts of all the motorcycle riding that occurred with the mentioned characters in the videos listed.  The reference to a change of clothes is because we usually go out to dinner on our birthdays and Lin has different clothes for different occasions.  The other ladies mentioned are coming over on the Sunday to celebrate my birthday with me.  Kelli Jane rides a motorcycle.  Because this is a story about motorcycle riding, he had to get that bit in too.   

On Saturday 13th April 2019 we’re going to take Angela T Christina B Tigerlily B Jessica B and the guys for a motorcycle ride to put on their helmets goggles and – leather jackets like Peter Fogg – Ajay Bains Pat Clifton and Nisha Bains from the Toy Soldiers DVD the Great – Greendale Race DVD Mr Clifton’s Perfect Pizza DVD and Mr Clifton’s Fun Run DVD – and after that get your clothes ready – because it’s Mum’s Birthday we’re going to the restaurant to have dinner Like Mr and Mrs Biggott come along to dinner with Wilton Cashmore and on Sunday 14th of April 2019 Miss Kelli Jane Hynes the motorcycle rider with her helmet and protective motorcycle clothing Ruth Amanda – Pearce and Miss Tullemans are coming!

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