By Kodey Toney
Carry On My Wayward Son
I've been bringing a series of columns lately featuring the book “The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida interpreted by David Mitchell. This is a book written by a teen from Japan who is on the spectrum. He gives some insight into what it's like living with autism. So let's carry on with more.
We have probably all noticed, whether on television or in real life, when people encounter someone with a disability we tend to change our tone. I think about a scene where someone is meeting a blind person and the first thing they do is start talking louder. I know this may seem silly, but it happens more than you would think. The person's hearing is not bad, in fact it's usually heightened, so why would we do this? We don't mean disrespect. We just feel like we're trying to help.
The same thing often happens when we meet people on the spectrum. This can come in many different forms, and though we think we're helping, as Naoki shows us, it actually is hurtful.
While many people may speak louder to someone with autism, one of the most common communication modifications is baby talk. We tend to talk in gibberish or speak the way we do to newborns.
In the section “Do you find childish language easier to understand?” Naoki addresses this issue. The answers he gives are not surprising if you think about it.
He explains that talking to someone on the spectrum is like talking to anyone else. Wow, what a concept! Let's treat everyone the same? Crazy idea, I know.
Let me start by saying that I never talked baby talk to kids. Besides finding it demeaning, we have to remember that children are followers. They mock what they see and hear. This can actually cause speech issues in the long run, and that's with any child, but especially someone on the spectrum.
Naoki said that he just wants to be spoken to according to his age and issues. He said in the book, “I’m not asking you to deliberately use difficult language when you talk to people with autism—just that you treat us as we are, according to our age. Every single time I’m talked down to, I end up feeling utterly miserable—as if I’m being given zero chance of a decent future.” And this is a person with low-verbal skills.
I think of my dad. He has hearing issues, so we all know to talk louder around him. However, most people don't know that, so they speak normal and he can't hear them very well. Someone usually has to tell them to speak up and all is well. This is the way we should treat someone with a disability. Until you are asked to change your communication just be natural.
The last thing you want to do is hurt someone's feelings, but often times we inadvertently do so just by trying to be compassionate. Naoki says, “True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s” self-respect"
This is something to think about