I have a 9 year old grandson.  Everybody’s grandchild is special.  I get it.  But my grandson is really special.  Firstly because he belongs to us.  There is pride in family connection.  And secondly, because he’s autistic.  It’s a long story but early in the game it was evident that he had some development difficulties.  Diagnosis by an attentive pediatrician picked it up before his third birthday.  Since that time there has been extra attention paid by parents, grand parents, school teachers, aides and people around him.  And it’s working—if you met  him today you’d notice something a little different about him but maybe then again you wouldn’t.  Arguably the greatest difference is that he doesn’t talk very much, and sometimes when he talks–he really doesn’t talk.  He points, or gestures. 

Boy Using Laptop Computer Stock Photo - Rights-Managed, Artist: Siephoto, Code: 700-05803530

When he was about 5 he had learned a pattern that really worked for him.  Around 5 pm he would walk to the fridge and thump on the door.  It was his signal that he was hungry.  He wanted supper–a peanut butter sandwich, some peas, and a glass of milk.  My daughter (his mom) would understand and deliver the goods. It was working for months–same actions, same results.  Daily.

One day she was describing this to his speech therapist and the speech therapist told her–don’t do that.  Don’t let him do that.  Why?  Because, the therapist explained, you understand, but there will come a day where people he meets won’t understand his thumping and pointing.  Her comments were “make him use words”.  So, for the next few months my daughter began the task of teaching her son to use words to describe his wants.  It was hard but the key question was “what do you want?”  “Tell me, using words”.  And he learned to communicate his wants.

I think there is a life lesson there.  I work with a lot of people.  Everybody has wants and desires.  The same people I work with at times struggle to communicate their wants and desires.  Sometimes they expect me to simply know them without me being told.  Other times they make gestures or sounds and expect me to understand their sounds and gestures.  Other times they’ll say things that really aren’t what they want or desire but politeness keeps them from forthrightness.  Other times the people I am with really don’t know what they want and so they shrug, stammer, twist and turn.  It’s a struggle–you’ve got to use words.  Otherwise there is a real likelihood of misunderstanding. 

A few years back I believe it was Microsoft and their introduction of their new internet search engines.  Their catch phrase was “where do you want to go to today?  We can take you there”.  What genius.  If you can’t tell someone what you want, it’s really hard for them to help you get there.