Let your childs behaviour teach you about his needs

If during interactive or just protective moments your efforts are directed towards helping your child within the parameters2 of his reality, dictated by his sensory system and his ability to make sense of what you want from him, he will learn at his own pace how to adjust to a larger reality.

As for 'getting' everything right, I did not do 'everything right' and I know of no one who was always right. My advice is not to worry if you misinterpret what your child wanted. You can amend and apologise for your actions but you cannot amend inaction. Getting it right is a mixture of attitude, knowledge and desire to learn more:

• If, out of love alone, you don't do to your child what you don't want done to yourself, you have already half'got it right'.

• Twenty five per cent follows from knowledge.

• And the rest from trials and errors.

With increased interactive times between autistic people and myself I soon realised how easily mistakes are made. Here is one of them. Every time Alexander asked new questions about emotional relationships or just questions about feelings in general, he whispered them or hid behind a chair and spoke from there. His behaviour came across as if he was 'protecting' himself from an unwanted reply. Because I could not hear him, I asked him to repeat his questions. In order to show him that I respected his need for physical distance during such conversations I did not go near him.

All went well (or so I believed) until one day he said to me in a very upset voice, 'I don't think you understand me mother.'

'Why do you say that Alexander?' His comment made me feel hurt. I have done everything humanly possible for him. I had no idea what he would say next.

'Because you ask me the same question twice.'

'I mean you ask me to repeat myself and that makes me think that you don't understand me. What's the point in talking to you if you don't understand me?'

'I do that because sometimes you whisper and I cannot hear your words.'

'I see, I thought you didn't understand what I was saying.'

'Please don't stop talking to me about what you are feeling. If you stop I would have to guess your thoughts. No one can guess anyone's thoughts. We have a mouth to use. If you tell me what bothers you I can help. If you don't tell me or your brother and sister we don't know.' (I deliberately chose to avoid metaphor.)

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