Friday, December 4, 2009


I was made to be familiar with computers from an early age. I've been going on the internet since second grade, and I first started to use AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) in fourth grade. That was also the year I learned to type. By fifth grade I could type 80 wpm. I took to AIM like a duck takes to water. Looking back, it all makes sense.

Although I didn't have a speech delay, I've always had trouble with language. To be honest, I just don't sound like a very intelligent person when I speak. I'm not sure what it is. People have asked me (and I've noticed the surprise on their faces), "You mean, you went to college?" Yes, I did. I've only learned to express feelings within the past year or so. Before then, I just never talked about how I felt. My parents did notice that, but it wasn't exactly something they were going to take to the doctor, not knowing about autism. My mom says I've never been that great at conversations, either. Before I started taking Topamax for my migraines, I always tended to have one-sided conversations, she says. Now, on the Topamax, you're lucky to get a word or two response out of me. I have a habit of repeating what other people say, too, when I'm excited about it. I wish I didn't do that, but I can't seem to help it. Sometimes, when I'm stressed, I get repetitive, and say the same thing over and over again. So, speech delay aside, I've always had some problems with language.

As soon as I started to use AIM, I noticed that I could say more when I was typing. It was like, instead of having x words at my disposal, I suddenly had 10x words. My parents were surprised at how well I wrote from an early age; I think what's surprising to people is the disparity between my speaking ability and writing ability. When I talk, it's like the words float around in my head and I have to peg them down to say them. I have to peg down each word to be able to say it. When I can't focus enough to peg down the words, I lose the ability to speak at all. That's what I call "losing my words." But when typing, typing the word pegs it down. I can refer back to it and go after the next word. When I've lost my words, sometimes I'm a little slower to type than I otherwise would be as I try to pick the words, but I can still do it. So far, I've never not been able to type.

So, I love to use email and online chat programs. If I need to talk to a friend, I frequently text them "Facebook?" or "Skype?" and ask them to get on so that we can talk. I almost never (though it does happen, rarely) choose to talk on the phone. I can't get my thoughts out that way.

If you have a child with autism, I highly recommend trying to teach him or her to type. You don't know what might be going on inside that mind!


  1. It's okay to repeat what people say.

    Sometimes it makes them feel affirmed, then you can say your own words, if you have them.

    But who 'owns' words?

    Do you also use Twitter?

    What a good recommendation about learning how to type.

    (I didn't have messenger in my life until I was a young adult, and it was never a modality for me. I did use Trillian sometimes and IRC sometimes).

    I first experienced the Internet in 1996-1997, after reading lots of computer magazines, especially Macworld and NetGuide and wondering what it would be like to go on the Net. We had our own service in 2000.

    Yeah, the whole speech -> language -> communication cycle.

    Did you show how you felt non-verbally? Did you have what could be called flat/blunt affect?

    Lots of people seem to have that disparity between speaking and writing ability.

  2. I showed how I felt, but not typically. I flapped when I was excited, and I bit myself when I was frustrated. Not exactly typical kid stuff, but it got the message across.

  3. OK, come on Lydia, how do I teach Bear to write/type? How do I convey to her the importance of letting me know she can read? (I'm fairly certain she can) How do we cross the communication barrier to get this going? Right now I'm on English and she's on Chinese.

  4. What's her favorite thing in the whole world that can fit inside a literal box?

    I would take that thing, and put it in an opaque box. Then, in big letters, write on the box what's in there. If you were doing this for me, it'd be easy- "cats." Leave it in plain view. If she can read, she'll let you know because she will want, badly, whatever's in there. That's where I would start.

  5. Annie Sullivan did something similar with Helen Keller.

    Or, rather, Helen got into a wardrobe and she took her reading cards with her.

    They spelt "girl" "is" "in" "wardrobe".

    And Annie had to wander around to find Helen.

    Then they hugged each other.

  6. Good thinking batman! I'll let you know how we go.