“Talking about Autistic Talking”

Diablogue #2:

Used with permission of the artist Zaffy Simone: http://www.zaffy.com.au/zaffys-story/cartoons/
Permission of the artist Zaffy Simone: http://www.zaffy.com.au/zaffys-story/cartoons/

Ken: So shall we continue where we left off on our previous post?

Christina: Sure. I asked you why you were speaking so formally in our blog, and you said you always talked like that on the inside—that you self-censor constantly in day-to-day conversations, and that surprised me.

Ken: I realised early in life that I paid particular attention to sounds. I was attracted to diverse sound patterns.

Christina: Like what?

Ken: When I was a toddler I would bang on any and all objects and listen to the sounds that they produced.

Christina: Cool.

Ken: When I was approximately four years of age, my father picked up a guitar and started to play it. This lead to one of my first great awakenings, music. Not only did I like to listen to it, I realized I had an ability to create it.

Christina: So how does this relate to your formal speaking?

Ken: To me, all spoken languages are musical; formal speech sounds like classical music, whereas common speech sounds more like folk music and/or country music.

Christina: Wow. Really interesting. I’ve never thought of it that way.

Ken: The difficulty for me is the realization that different social situations demand different forms of music—or speech.

Christina: When did you realize that?

Ken: It started in First Grade. People would ask me, “Why do you use such big words—talk so flowery? Philosophize?” Whenever they said something like that, I would go silent, withdraw, internalize, and self-analyze. I slowly concluded that I was different, although I did not know why or how I was different. Or how to correct it.

It was September 1966 that I had my second great awakening. Star Trek premiered. Mr. Spock. “Pow!” Someone who talked like I wanted to talk. Someone I could understand clearly. I made a connection.  

Christina: Aha! So that’s why you’ve always loved Star Trek—and especially Spock. Now I get why. But that First Grade story makes me really sad. Imagining that little kid getting more and more isolated—alone.

Ken: It’s like a puppy being whacked by a stick; the puppy goes around the back of the shed and peeps out to see when and if it is safe to come out.

Christina: And that still happens? When?

Ken: My brain is physiologically and neurologically different from those of others. I am unable to self-censor ceaselessly. Self-censorship is one of the contributing factors of my daily exhaustion. I will inevitably lose self-control, and my natural proclivity towards formal speech will override my self-censorship.

Christina: Ok. But where’s the puppy? Do you still go behind a shed?

Ken: Still behind the shed peeping out from time to time. I will never be able to completely rewire my brain. I will always be autistic, and when I become overwhelmed, anxious and/or exhausted I will slip into formal speech patterns. When I do, people will often look at me oddly, and this sends the puppy back behind the shed.

Christina: Does the puppy need to stay behind the shed as long?

Ken: No, the duration is progessively diminishing. However, it will never completely disappear.

Christina: That’s such an unhappy metaphor! Now I’m thinking about how my own speech has changed since marrying you. People have told me I speak very… not formally exactly, but carefully and precisely. I don’t think I did that so much before. Married couples become more like each other over time. Maybe that’s happened with us in speech. I’ve adapted to become a bit more formal, and you’ve adapted to become more casual—at least socially.

Ken: I believe your assessment to be correct. Nature tends towards a balancing and blending to maintain equilibrium.

Christina: So that natural formal speech tendency makes it hard for you in some group situations. I can see how your speech could strike people as stuffy or big-headed.

Ken: That is correct, and that is the most difficult part. I never intend to appear as such.

Christina: Maybe that’s why you sometimes seem more comfortable among academics who tend to talk like you than in more casual conversations with friends who don’t know you’re on the spectrum. Our good friends have gotten used to your speech patterns, I think.

Ken: Yes, and those are much welcomed tiny islands of sanctuary and safety.

Christina: Let’s talk about interpretations and misinterpretations both ways next post.

Ken: Agreed.

 

Next post, Diablogue #3: “About Interpretations.”

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