12 November, 2010

3. About Stephen

This summer I had a camper named Stephen of whom I was very fond. Although Stephen was not very good at explaining what he wanted or needed, he talked all the time as he was a full-time user of language as maintenance. Some common threads of his were:

"They have to charge the golf cart?"

"No camp in the winter."

"Will I have a good Thanksgiving? Where will I go?"

"Is it mine?" (about various objects)

"I'm on vacation?"

"I'm not going home today. I like it here? Yes, I like it here."

When I was on break I'm told variations on the following occurred:

"Where's Amanda?"

"She's on her break."

"Amanda's at Walmart. Where's Walmart?"

"It's in Rutland."

"Where's Rutland?"

"It's about half an hour from here."

"What's a Walmart?"

"Stephen, you know what a Walmart is."

"Which Walmart? Where?"

"It's in Rutland."

"Where's Rutland?"

I have often seen "asking repetitive questions" used as an example of ASD people's inappropriate social behavior. Setting aside the fact that Stephen was a very nervous person and I would never criticize him for trying to calm himself by confirming that the world continues to work in the same way every day, I felt close to him when I was answering his repetitive questions. I was very stressed out and I can't imagine that session without Stephen's presence and our conversations, which were like verbal massages--straightening out our minds by moving them carefully along the same old tracks. I love old tracks. I miss Stephen all the time.

I guess you could say that even if Stephen had the perfect social skills to socialize with me, that doesn't matter because I'm not normal, but for one thing I know a lot of normal people who like Stephen, and also it's not fair to say that only some people deserve to have their reactions to other humans be so important that they become the yardstick by which other people's abilities are judged.

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