Pudding: I want a paintbrush.
Me: Why do you want a paintbrush?
Pudding: Yes, give me a paintbrush.
Me: Because you want to….
Pudding: Yes. May I have paintbrush, please?
She is nothing if not polite, but no real answers here. So many frustrations could be eased if we could just nail this concept. She knows that she wants to paint, she knows that she needs a paintbrush to do so. It is all almost there, just one tiny piece left out. Another reason, I guess, why the symbol for autism is a puzzle piece.
The “wh” questions are generally difficult for kids with autism spectrum disorders. Pronouns too, which I understand, because they are slippery little suckers that change around all the time depending on who is speaking. Does ‘I’ mean me or you? She gets around it by always using names, which is a smart solution for that issue, but won’t help with “wh” questions. She actually uses “who?”, “what?”, and “where?” all the time, but “when?” and “why?” are just proving more problematic. I think “when?” is because she has a murky concept of time. When she doesn’t want to do something, she’ll frequently tell us she wants to do it “later, on Monday”, even if it is a Monday, for example. We have included “wh” questions on her IEP, but “why?” doesn’t get included as many typically developing children don’t use it at this stage either, she is not considered delayed.
When we reach this point of being able to reason with her, so she can tell us why she needs something so badly, and I can explain why she can’t have something, it will make life so much easier. We’ll be able to figure each other out, the start of understanding somebody else’s perspective, the seeds that one day might sprout into a Theory of Mind (which is a whole other post, trust me. Or just google it if you’re curious).
Of course, “why?” will come one day. When it does I’ll have to be ready with the answers. I can do “why can’t I have a cookie?” and even try my hand at “why is the sky blue?”. Sooner or later though, we’ll get the really tough ones: “why am I different?”, “why do I have Asperger’s?”, “why won’t they play with me?”. I’m not even close to being able to answer, or at least give a satisfactory answer. In the case of the last one, I’m not even ready to hear that being asked, but I know one day it will.
The other day I found this site which provides free resources for teaching these tricky concepts, and I made a book of why. With lots of repetition, we’ll get there. In a year she has come such a long way, I have no doubt we can do this too.
I may not have all the answers worked out, but I do have a response for when she asks me a “why” I can’t answer: go ask daddy. Sometimes parenting and spectrummy parenting are the exact same thing, don’t ask me why!