The Autistic Mind Finally Speaks: Letterboard Thoughts

Autistic mind book - best parts

“Never again would people think I was stupid or that I had the mind of a toddler.”

Oh, man. Aren’t those words just beautiful?

Don’t you believe that about your child?

When everybody is saying “Oh, they can’t learn.”

THEY CAN.

Here, Let’s get some proof.

The Autistic Mind Finally Speaks: Letterboard Thoughts

-Gregory Tino-

This month’s book club is The Autistic Mind Finally Speaks. And it’s by Gregory Teno. Excellent book and one of my favorites. Although I love all of the books that are written by people with autism who do not speak.

The Decisions of Life

So let’s get started with this book. Okay, he wrote a poem called The Decisions of Life.

I wish I was not autistic. There, I said it.

“I think life would be so much easier if I were neurotypical. I wouldn’t need to worry endlessly about trivial things like what I want to eat for dinner three weeks from now, or which library I will visit on the weekend. This is the sad truth I live in every day. My life is made worthwhile by my family.”

“The way they protect my dignity while pushing me to be my best is the reason I’m able to write this book. I think that some people are given choices to either spend their time lamenting their lot in life or accepting it. I believe I have chosen the latter.”

“I think that autism has many blessings as well. Like how many of you can see beautiful colors when you listen to music or experience thoughts and memories so vivid. It is like you are right there again. That I would not trade for anything.
This is my life and I will make the best of it.

Oh, man. Yes, this is a great book. I just love all of the experiences he’s able to shed light on. This is a book written by a young man with autism who can’t speak but has all the thoughts and all the dreams and all the desires as anybody else does. Here’s a section he wrote called The Year I Started to Live.

The Year I Started to Live

“The year I started to live was 2017. The month was May. The time was the moment when I learned to spell on the letter board. My world turned upside down in that moment. Never again would people think I was stupid or had the mind of a toddler. I will never forget the look on my mom’s face. I would love to relive that again and again.”

So his mom took him to an appointment to a therapist to learn how to spell on his letter board. And at the end of the session, the the therapist asked him if he would ever want to go to outer space, and this is what he spelled back.

His answer was, “No, thanks. My world is right here.”

He goes on to say “A sentence that spoke volumes and changed the trajectory of my life, a sentence that brought my mother to her knees and made her cry like I have never seen before, a moment that is forever burned in my memory.”

Ah! He goes on to write that “This is the best moment of my life so far. I am sure there is more to come, but nothing will compare to it. It was awakening of everyone in my life. I wish all autistic people can experience it in their lifetime. It is like winning the lottery that you’ve always dreamed about. There are no words to describe the depths of gratitude. I wish and pray that people will change their opinion of autism and realize that we are one of the medical mysteries of our time.”

He goes on to write about how autism changes his family and he says, “My family has adjusted so much for me, I am forever grateful. It is one of the many sacrifices they give, every day. I am not sure if I even deserve it, but I gladly take it. Autism shows you who truly loves you. And my family passes with flying colors. Siblings get overlooked and they don’t question it. They become beautiful, compassionate people who don’t judge and accept people for who they are.”

Yes, family can be beautiful with autism, regardless of how the autism is expressed.

Aggression

And speaking of expression, he talks a little bit about different emotions. And it’s a really good read to get another insight into how your child might be thinking. And so he talks about aggression here.

And I’m just going to quote him:

“The thing I hate most about this disorder is that my body gets stuck in these loops of behaviors and I can’t stop it. Sometimes I hit my parents. I am NOT proud of it. They are everything to me and certainly do not deserve it. My body does things I don’t want it to do. The way I think of it is like a short circuit in my brain that needs something to detour the neural signals. This can be done by doing something purposeful that requires me to think about what I’m doing. My mom will grab the letter board and have me start to spell. That breaks the loop, catching a ball also sometimes helps. It sounds simplistic, but it’s true. This should be used with all people with autism. I think it is a revolutionary way of looking at our behavior. There is a mind-body disconnect, much like a stroke victim. I think the majority of people don’t realize this.”

And I know this is an aspect of autism that is really difficult because you love your child and you’re pretty sure your child loves you. Sometimes they might not be able to say it, but then behaviors like this happen and it can just get so demoralizing for you and for them because you can see maybe they’re apologetic afterwards and they’re like, “Oh, sorry mom” or “Sorry dad, I was bad” and all these kinds of things.

His idea of doing something to kind of break that loop is a really great workaround when there are still kind of these behaviors that neither of you want to be experiencing. So really coming up with a strategy that can help in that moment is a beautiful thing to be able to do together.

Okay, and the last part of this book that I’m going to highlight, I love every single part of it. So please get the book and read it. It’s a great read. There are beautiful poems. There are great pictures. My daughter actually really loves this book and here’s the last section that I’ll talk about.

Don’t Talk About Us

It says, ‘Don’t talk about us in front of us.’

“We understand everything you say. You hurt our feelings when you talk disparagingly about us.

“Yes, we have feelings.”

“Sometimes we feel deeper than neurotypical people. We have difficulties with our bodies, but not our minds. I think that people don’t know how to interact with us, so they ignore us as if we aren’t there. It is so frustrating when people talk to my mom about me in front of me. I know I can’t answer, but please talk to me.”

“Keep talking.”

“Even if we look away or talk over top of you, autism is controlling our bodies at the moment, but not of our minds. Talk to us like you would talk to anyone else, treat us age-appropriately and talk to us like an adult. Please don’t speak to us loudly or like a baby. We get that a lot. Include us in the discussion. We love being around others. Even if we can’t talk to you, talk in close proximity so we can hear what is being said.”

“Autism likes to hear the latest news. Tell us all about your day current events or what you want to have for dinner. We also like to hear jokes. Don’t expect us to laugh at the appropriate times, but we will still think it’s funny.”

YUP!!! So all of those thoughts you have in your mind about your child and yet your gut is telling you my child is smart, they just can’t control their body. My child has great, complex thoughts. They just can’t get it out. It is so true.

Oh, it is so true.

So I just want to keep encouraging you, inspiring you, giving you examples like this to keep finding what will work for your child.

It is so possible and beyond gratifying.

I wish you all the best and certainly check out this book.

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