When creator David Mitchell’s son became recognized with autism at 3 years vintage, the British creator and his spouse Keiko Yoshida felt lost, uncertain of what became taking place internal their son’s head.
In an attempt to discover answers, Yoshida ordered a ee-e book from Japan written with the aid of using non-verbal autistic teen Naoki Higashida. Entitled The Reason I Jump, the ee-e book became a revelation for the couple who received a deeper expertise into their son’s behaviours.
The pair went directly to translate the ee-e book into English, and it has seeing that stimulated a documentary movie of the identical name, following the day by day enjoy of 5 human beings with non-verbal autisms.
Mitchell is the writer of Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks, Number9Dream, Utopia Avenue and extra. He and New Zealand musician Hollie Fullbrook (aka Tiny Ruins) are teaming up for ‘If I Were a Story and You Were A Song’ on Saturday twenty eighth August as a part of Word Christchurch Festival.
He advised Kim Hill that Higashida’s ee-e book has highlighted the mismatch among how society containers human beings with autism, and their capacity.
“It found out to me that in general autism is a communicative disorder, now no longer a cognitive one, that it’s miles continually satisfactory and maximum beneficial to count on competence. That even withinside the case of a non-verbal autistic individual what goes on of their heads is as creative and enlightened as what goes on in a neurotypical individual’s head.
“The vintage myths of autism – which means that the autistic individual hasn’t were given feelings or has no concept of mind, or would not get that there are different human beings withinside the international which have minds like they do – those are precisely that; myths, pernicious and unhelpful myths that exacerbate the trouble of dwelling with autism in a neurotypical international.”
Mitchell reiterates that autism isn’t always a disease, and it is now no longer suitable to talk of a cure.
“What we will do is paintings to make our international a extra autism-pleasant place.”
He concurs with Hill’s proposition that there may be a temptingly clean cowardice to assuming that non-verbal equals a loss of thought.
“I agree with that autistic human beings have the identical emotional intelligence and creative intelligence and highbrow intelligence as you and I have. But if we have got offered into an ideology that announces that isn’t the case, to have that challenged is uncomfortable and affirmation bias kicks in, and that may gasoline scepticism.”
Mitchell has lived for decades in Japan, and has met Higashida, who wrote the authentic ee-e book and stimulated the movie.
“I recollect he got here into the room very visibly classically autistic, he discovered it to begin with pretty tough to take a seat down down on the desk and to be grounded. First he entered the room, then he left again, then he entered a couple of minutes later, and this time became capable of take a seat down down, after which we might started to communicate.
“I’d ask him a question, and he independently… throughout the desk tapped out a solution on his cardboard alphabet board – it is now no longer clean for him, however he’d factor to a letter withinside the Japanese hiragana alphabet, voice it, factor to the subsequent one, voice that. Sometimes he has to begin a sentence a couple of times, however he will then get thru his solution after which I’ll reply and ask him some thing else. It became quite first rate really.
“I wasn’t pretty certain what I became in for, so to begin with I stored the questions or my feedback pretty straightforward, however quickly sensed that he became nicely able. He became as engaged and clued in and intellectually acute as I am. So quite quickly we have been speakme approximately his use of metaphor.”
He’s hearted to say narratives and attitudes toward autism can, and do, change.
“The change can come from the aggregate efforts of activists or research, or more enlightened trends that society embarks upon,” he says.
“Fifty years ago people like my son would have been locked up. Thirty, forty years ago autism was [thought to be] caused by mothers, mothers who didn’t love their child enough. The famous refrigerator mothers – never refrigerator fathers … we now look at those attitudes with disgust in most parts of the world we don’t think that any more.
“Twenty years ago there would have been no special needs units in mainstream schools, but now there’s this idea that if it’s possible to have a special needs unit within a mainstream school then this is pretty good. The curriculums and the syllabus is thought about more intelligently than in previous decades – everything’s still pretty rickety, and there’s there’s still vast room for improvement.”
The gains have been hard-gotten, and are uneven, but Mitchell says that even within his fiftteen-year-old son’s life he can measure a shift.
“[Now] there’s this idea that autism’s a thing that a civilised society should be accommodating, rather than disbarring the children from any kind of meaningful education – even in the 90s that was the case.
“So, demonstrably the narrative is changing, and I hope that this trend will continue in this direction. I hope we’re moving toward a world where these autistic tics… raise no eyebrows. And the film is a part of that.”
He’s happy to report that people who’ve seen The Reason I Jump, have told him they found the film expanded and changed their knowledge and attitudes toward people with autism.
And he hopes that in the future autism rights will be viewed as human rights as a matter of course, and students with autism will be catered for with education budgets that allocate funding for special needs units and wheelchair ramps as a matter of course.
“I know which kind of society I’d rather live in, and it’s that,” he says.
Reflecting the widespread experience of parents with an autistic child, he says giving his son a fighting chance at what others take for granted in society is still an uphill battle.
“Yes it does cost stamina, yes it does cost lots of emails, yes it does cost favours and contacts and time and energy to get a bare minimum of support systems in place for your kid in schools.
“However, compared to the stamina of having to live in an autistically-wired brain it’s nothing. If I ever think that I’ve got it hard – when we’re tempted to indulge in a little bit of self-pity… ‘oh, I’m having to explain it again, or we’re having to send this email off again’… we just look at our son and see what he has to put up with.
“Being autistic in a neurotypical world, now that’s stamina.
“They have to painstakingly put these [mechanisms] in place – I think of them as apps – line by line, just to function in our effortless world – it’s not heroism that they’ve chosen, but as far as I’m concerned that doesn’t stop them being heroes.”
Tone matters more than actual words
There is a sense of deep satisfaction when one’s thoughts are in line with a famous theory that is taught in schools and colleges. I am referring to the Mehrabian theory of communication. According to the Mehrabian model, only 7 per cent of personal communication relies on verbal communication or the actual words that are spoken. The remaining 93 per cent lies in non-verbal communication, with 38 per cent comprising tone of voice and 55 per cent concerned with body language.
All we think about is what we speak, the actual words, while our body language and the tone of our voice actually has a more profound effect on the listeners. In communication, a speaker’s words convey a fraction of his thoughts. The pitch and tone of his voice, the pauses between those words may express more than what is being communicated by words alone. Further, his gestures, posture and facial expressions usually convey a variety of subtle signals. These non-verbal elements can present a listener with important clues to the speaker’s thoughts and feelings and thus substantiate or contradict the speaker’s spoken words.
I am not qualified to get into the merits of the Mehrabian theory. This study even if not accurate is a useful reminder that non-verbal cues can be more valuable and telling than verbal ones. Therefore, to be effective and persuasive in our verbal communication be it in official presentations or personal communication, it is essential that our words are in sync with the right tone and voice and the appropriate body language.
When I was growing up, I remember these often-repeated remarks made by parents to their children. “Watch your language” and “mind your tone” or “how are you talking” or “why are you shouting?” If you notice only the first one is about the actual words spoken, the others pertain to the tone of the voice.
When we were in school, busy mugging up spellings for our dictation tests, we had no clue that spellings and sentence construction would be taken care of by spell check and Grammarly. What we still have to watch is our non-verbal communication. There are no apps yet to fix our tone of voice and body language that purely reflect us.
I always thought that people who had a pleasant tone of voice and demeanour managed to get a lot done. They are no doubt very popular and most useful in official meetings. Being brilliant is great, but if your tone is going to be aggressive and break the deal instead of making it, the brilliance is of no use. I heard a communication guru say that when she entered a meeting, she had an agenda to make the people in the room like her. Her motive was to be approachable and likeable. The atmosphere is then more conducive for a meaningful and productive discussion leading to a fruitful result.
I remember my grandmother, my Nani, she had the sweetest voice, soft tone and loving words. Her demeanour was most gentle. She was a perfect example of when your thoughts, words, meaning, expressions all are in complete harmony. It was difficult to argue with her, forget about winning the argument. She disarmed you with her gentle words and tone. She had not studied any theory or psychology. She is no more but she continues to have a deep impact on my mind. She made me realise that when you can get so much done peacefully, why should we raise our voice and blood pressure? What is the point of being educated when we can’t even understand this?
One phrase I hear often is “he/she is good at heart”. My take on this is that it is great to be good at heart. But if his tone is offensive or aggressive and his body language far from pleasant, then I really don’t care how good his heart is. I am not his cardiologist.
Take into consideration the fact that others are unable to see your body language through their computer or mobile screen in the Covid/Zoom era that we are living in, it’s fair to say that tone of voice is a major influencing factor in our communication.
Communication is about the fact that the verbal and non-verbal elements support one another and that these are congruent. What someone says will then be more powerful and convincing because of their gestures and intonation. So next time you say hello, say it with your eyes and smile too. Let our verbal and non-verbal cues be in sync and convey one message. There are enough contradictions in the world and we don’t have to add to them.
Majority of problems of life are due to the tone of voice. It is not what we say, it is how we say. Just change the tone and see the change in life.
Shilpa Bhasin Mehra is a legal consultant based in Dubai and the founder of Legal Connect
What Is Your Nonverbal Child With Autism Telling You?
Before a child learns to speak, new parents use a game of trial and error to figure out what their child needs. For a nonverbal child on the autism spectrum, that trial-and-error period can extend into years.
Yet, children without verbal skills are still communicating, and parents are uniquely positioned to intuit what they are trying to say, says Board Certified Behavior Analyst Ashley Musial, M.Ed, mother to six boys and owner of ChildFirst Behavior Therapy, an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy provider in Arlington Heights.
In her work as a Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA), Musial uses ABA therapy, a clinically proven method to build social skills, routines and effective communication for individuals with autism and other developmental challenges.
“When it comes to figuring out what your child is communicating, confidence is just as important as technique,” Musial says. “As a parent, I would say you are more equipped than you think you are.”
Even before they receive an autism diagnosis, parents may recognize that their child doesn’t react to their name, acknowledge the presence of others or respond to requests.
“I hear a lot of parents say, ‘I’m not sure what is going on in his mind,’ or ‘I just don’t know what she is thinking about.’ They might say their child’s behavior just comes out of nowhere. There is a level of desperation for the parents. It feels very defeating,” says Musial.Finding new ways to read your child
Without words to explain what a child wants, needs or is thinking, parents, teachers and caregivers are left to connect the dots. Despite their exhaustive effort, that guesswork doesn’t always create an accurate picture, Musial explains.
“When we see hand flapping, pacing or rocking, we project what we might be feeling that would make us behave this way,” she says, adding that parents commonly assume their child is angry or anxious because their child is displaying behaviors similar to those that parents engage in when they are angry or anxious, such as pacing and hand wringing. It is normal and natural to see these connections. “In this way, parents are always trying to piece together what their child might be telling them.”
These repetitive behaviors, often referred to as stereotypy by researchers and therapists, are one of the most stigmatizing behaviors of autism and are often used to depict autism on television or in the media, Musial says.
But these behaviors, like anything else, provide clues to the many different needs or desires your child has. This is where confidence is key. Take note of when these behaviors are most likely to happen. Be observant and try to refrain from making conclusions after only one occurrence. Watch for at least three occurrences before concluding a behavior is happening for any particular reason; oftentimes, it requires more of a trend to be sure, Musial says.
Non-verbal kids with autism also use body-positioning and mimicking to signal a need or desire.
“Maybe you introduced a new food, like a goldfish cracker, at the kitchen counter. When they want it again, they position themselves in space in close proximity to where you gave it to them. They may look in the direction of where the goldfish are or where they were when you first offered them,” Musial says.
But if that signal is too subtle for the parent who is often juggling multiple tasks at once, the child might get upset.
“If standing there is not working, where else will they go to get their needs met? The desire still remains, and they are mimicking what happened last time they got goldfish crackers, so you might hear some irritated sounds followed by crying or a tantrum,” Musial says.
In short, the child may feel like they are communicating with the parent, but the parent may not be recognizing those behaviors as communication.What comes before language
Other indicators for pre-language development that are identified in research include imitation, joint attention — which refers to shared focus of an object or activity with the child — and pointing at different objects.
“These are the indicators I look for when considering a language program for a child. If imitation, joint attention and pointing are not present, we focus on these skills first,” Musial says. She stresses the importance of working with an ABA therapy provider that has a strong understanding of verbal behavior and stays up to date on the latest research and literature.
“Look for Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) accreditation, which is important. Not every ABA center is accredited,” she says.
Just like trained ABA therapists, parents of a child on the autism spectrum have tools available to better understand their child, create effective routines and communicate for more satisfying outcomes. Utilizing the resources of ABA therapy can be a powerful way to learn how to use these tools, Musial says.
“Ultimately, you are the one who is responsible for your child. You are steering the ship,” she says. “You can choose providers and tell them what you want for your child, and that’s a beautiful thing. Parents have so many freedoms to help their children, but you do need to educate yourself so you can be a strong advocate and make decisions for your child.”
Learn more about ChildFirst Behavior Therapy at childfirstbehaviortherapy.com.