Our Autism Story – Day 20 – “Social Interaction”
One of the major components and challenges of autism is difficulty in social interaction. Generally, people with autism appear to not be interested in the social world. At times people with autism appear aloof , unaware and withdrawn from what other people are doing and saying. As detached as people with autism might appear to be, they generally want to be included in activities.
Below are some of the ways Brahm may appear to interact differently when in social situations…
Physical Space: Brahm normally keeps his distance from people especially if there are more than a couple of people near him. He might even be at an opposite end of a room when he interacts with others. He tends to need space when there are more people than just our immediate family.
Talking About Obsessions: Brahm will typically start talking to people about whatever obsession is on his mind at the time, which usually consists of his favorite things. Lately, he has been talking almost exclusively about candles, lights, lanterns, animals (Simba!) and his favorite movies (Ghostbusters III and Winnie the Pooh).
Back and Forth Conversation: Most of the time Brahm will not appropriately answer the question a person asks unless it’s a question he has been programmed to answer from therapy (e.g., What is your name? How are you doing?). Instead of answering the question, Brahm will often just start talking about whatever is on his mind, which is usually one of his current obsessions.
Parallel Play: Brahm really likes being around other kids. He will ask to play with his cousins and our neighbor. Brahm will typically engage in “parallel play”. Parallel play is when a child will play with the same or similar toy as others but is not engaged or even acknowledging the other person (i.e., the child is “in their own world”). Even though Brahm will be doing his own thing at his own pace, he likes and wants to be around other kids.
Talking Through Objects: Another quirk with Brahm’s social interaction is that he pretends to talk through some of his favorite stuffed animals. He will talk in a high-pitched voice when Simba (his stuffed cat) and his bear talk. This can be “the most annoying sound in the world”! But, Brahm’s happy, so we’re happy!
P.S. – We understand it might feel a little strange or uncomfortable for others to engage with Brahm. Generally, we tell people to talk to Brahm just like you would any other person. If he doesn’t respond to your question, it’s best to give him a little extra time to respond and then ask it again in a slightly different way. It often helps to talk in a quieter voice, use fewer words to describe your thoughts, and to be literal (Brahm doesn’t often pick up on sarcasm or facial expressions / emotions). We promise your efforts will be worth it! Brahm can be an incredible charmer and will probably teach you something you didn’t know about one of his obsessions!