Monday, December 31, 2012

Raining Idioms and Literal Thinkers

Most people know that people with autism tend to be very literal.  Explaining idioms to kids on the spectrum can be fun, frustrating and frequent.  Even when you think they have most of them, it crops up at the funniest times. 

We got together to watch a football game this weekend and my brother-in-law made some comment about "hoping they could eat a little more time off the clock" and Joe got the funniest expression on his face and he said, "Eat ... what?!?!?!  Translation, please!"  There are so many idioms in the English language that there are always new ones to learn.  One SLP that Joe had in elementary school had an entire semester devoted to idioms which the kids thought was so much fun and the parents thought was so necessary.  But of course there are always more.

One child that I heard about used to go out to the driveway before they would leave and slap it because the parent would tell him that they needed to "hit the road!"  Joe loves to say "hang on to your hats" when someone makes a turn in a car because one of his carpool drivers used to say that.  Of course, it doesn't take much imagination to understand why "raining cats and dogs" can be funny to a literal thinker.

But trying to explain why his uncle's second wife is still his "aunt" when her children are said uncle's step children gets a little more confusing.  He wants to call her his "step-aunt".  When I try to explain that it sounds offensive he asks me why.  I give up.  Let's just call her by her first name and be done with it.

Joe is a very fluent reader, but his comprehension is far below grade level so we still have him read aloud to us every day.  Right now he is on a Harry Potter kick.  There was a line in the book this morning that said something about "I can see Uranus.  Get it?  I can see your anus." to which Joe says, "I don't get it."  Ah the fun conversations I get to have!

But the best conversation with Joe on literal thinking came while teaching him to drive.  One of the things covered on the permit test was "road rage".  One of the symptoms given was "excessive honking".  So the first time he hears me honk after learning that he wonders if I have road rage.  "No, I am just trying to make sure the driver in front of me is aware the light has changed."  I explain that not every driver that honks has road rage.  Usually it is more when you lean on the horn or honk repeatedly.  Suddenly it occurs to me ... "Joe, do you know what it means to flip someone off or give them the bird?"  "No."  Okay, let's explain this one.  I don't say what it literally means, but I explain that it means they are pretty angry with you.  And while someone might honk at you just to get your attention, if someone flips you off, you can be pretty sure you did something to make them angry.  

How many people get to explain to their high school student what an obscene gesture is???

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