Children on the autistic spectrum can often take words literally. Now most of this can be put down to the confusing nature of language. Why do we make it so difficult. Often English doesn’t even seem like my second language. It did take me three attempts to pass my English exam.

It is something we noticed with our son at an early age. I can clearly remember one time when naughty dad had eaten all the smarties. When our son quizzed the suspect I remember saying

“Must have been the dinosaur in the kitchen”

Five minutes later our son is ransacking the kitchen in a desperate dinosaur hunt.

Another time I remember saying “and Pigs might Fly”. A few weeks later at nursery our son began telling the other kids that pigs could fly. And given a lot of the kids realised how much he knew about animals – they all started believing it to. So if you ever hear someone like Coyote Peterson or Chris Packham talking about flying pigs on their nature shows – then you probably know who to blame. Sorry

We had to become more careful in what we said. We tried to make sure if a joke was told or any colloquial language used that we immediately pointed what had been done and why. Explaining that words can have different meanings. We also tried to stress the importance of not only hearing the words but also trying to listen for how things have been said. We worked on his body language recognition skills. One game which helped was watching the TV with the volume turned off and trying to guess which people were happy or sad or angry or being serious.

To this day he still quite often takes words literally. It’s a worry going forward into senior school. But he is learning. He now frequently asks “is that real” or “is that true” to try and confirm meaning and last week….. He was using my iPad in another room. He kept shouting that it wasn’t working properly. Me being a lazy sod I was trying to shout instructions back rather than going to look at it. After several minutes he shouted that it was still not working. Without thinking I replied “just flush it down the toilet”. Few seconds later the toilet flushed. I have never ran so fast. Fortunately I found a laughing son saying “got you there dad”. Happy Days….

44 thoughts on “Literally

  1. that is a great way to figure out emotions, no words or sounds just the facial expressions, might even help some adults be more mature humans by practising this too. I like the funny side of your boy, he must have been tickled to see you run that fast!!

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  2. I have a literal guy here too – I always know if I tipped the line when I look at him and he is confused and then will do something like look outside to see if it REALLY IS raining cats and dogs. Loved how your son got you there at the end! That was pretty funny!

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    1. Thank you. Yes we’ve had the raining cats and dogs one – I forgot about that one. We had the ‘sun has got his hat on’ one which sent him into a 30 minute tirade about what possible material could survive the intense heat – wouldn’t listen to us trying to tell him that possibly it was a daft thing to say in the first place.

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      1. I guess I just try to explain what I mean – although it doesn’t always work. So then I just try to say a more literal statement. It’s more difficult when someone ELSE says something to him and then I try to explain the person meant something else – because there is no swaying the original statement (at least not yet!) 🙂

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      2. Thanks. Yes that’s what worries me in his new school. With our son it’s as if he does store the multiple meanings but the way he logically processes stuff he discards looking at other variations and just goes for the one he thinks is the most logical based on the phrase used.

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