Here we go again…and presuming competence?

*note: I started this post on Mon afternoon…got distracted by the circus that my life can be multiple times and am just now getting back to it.

Poor monkey is sick…started early am Sat with diarrhea and vomiting that ended about 9 or 10 but didn’t perk up til after nap (if he’s obviously sick then he’s sick bc not much knocks him down) and a slight fever, sat evening and sunday seemed fine but found a small diaper  rash, yesterday he woke up early with no obvious symptoms so could only guess that his tummy still wasn’t back to normal because he was kinda fussy.  He fell asleep before school…had to wake him up to get on the van.  Came home from school and was acting kinda strange…had almost 103 temp…it would go down but wouldnt stay down.  Ok so this morning had to call him into school but his temp was under the limit so possibly tomorrow he can go.  Anyway all this just as a background to today…

I have always belived in his intelligence and when I read various articles about presuming competence i was like “YES!” This is what I’ve thought all along…my son is intelligent even though in some ways he can’t show it, and needs to be treated this way.  I can’t think of how many times I’ve been frustrated by the testing system telling me my son was just a fraction of who I knew him to be (but that’s another post alltogether back to the point).  Reading autistics blogs and books especially from non verbal people like Ido and Amy Sequenzia (find some of her work here and here) had me rethinking the presumption of competence, because honestly some of the things they could do and not show at early ages were amazing! I started wondering if I was selling my son short by only assuming he was intellectually on par with a “normal” 3 yr old…and started just accepting things I though were coincidences (because he “couldn’t possibly” have done that intentionally at his age) as purposeful…I’d rather give him the benefit of the doubt than underestimate him.

Anyway all that being said, as I’ve already stated, he seemed to be feeling better and fever was down.  He wanted something and since I have been trying to work with him on using his talker (AAC) more rather than relying on us to understand what he means just through gestures and dragging us around the house, I had taken him to it and asked what he wanted…”hospital” ummmmmm ok son…what do you do with that? While still contemplating this we go on about our business, with mommy trying to figure out what to do about that statement, and he wants something else (I forget what but I knew at the time).  Once again I take him to the talker and ask him to tell me that way…he doesn’t ask for what he wanted just a second ago but instead says “go to nurse” aaaaahhh! Ok neither of these is anything hes ever used nor had occasion to use, we’re wondering lately if he can read (another post for another day), and we’re presuming competence, so now what?  What do you do when your sick non-verbal kiddo says “hospital” and “go to nurse” do you take them?  I didn’t. If it had been the day before when he was so sick I might have, was it the wrong thing? I have no idea! Did he intend to say those things…well, kind of coherent to just be coincidence and he was purposeful in choosing them…they weren’t mishits.  Was he reading the words, or looking at the pictures and assigning his own meaning? No clue. Someone later suggested maybe I should have talked to him and told him that although he felt bad he probably didn’t need either of those.

I guess the point of all this is, it can be difficult sometimes to have an autistic child, especially a non verbal one…BUT how much more difficult is it for them, when they manage, through all the physical and wiring problems, to tell us something and we’re not listening.  Something I’m pondering lately and trying to improve…


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