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Why I Watch What I Say to My Daughter With Autism (Not Literally)

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At our first visit with Emily’s developmental pediatrician about a year and a half ago, it was hard for me to wrap my mind around his prediction of an older, “future” Emily.

He told us she would likely be a literal thinker — and she could have a tendency to correct us if we spoke in ways that contradicted her literal interpretation of the matter.

Again, this was about a year and a half ago when he first discussed this with us, and at the time I couldn’t picture it because we weren’t quite there yet. Emily was still working on her spontaneous communication skills, and we hadn’t really noticed her “correcting” us, per say.

Well…flash forward to today (should I credit her pediatrician as being a skilled physician or a fortune teller?).


Let me provide you with a few examples of her literal interpretations:

Me: Emily, just give me five minutes then we can go out and play.
Emily: (watches the clock) Time’s up! No more numbers! It’s time to play! (in exactly five minutes)

Me: (as I encourage her to break out of her bashfulness and say hello to our neighbor) It’s OK, say hi, Emily.
Emily: Hi, Emily!

Me: Oh, boy, you did so good with your dance routine!
Emily: Nooo, I’m not a boy, I’m a girl! That’s silly, mommy.

I realize as adults we should take caution with our use of idiomatic expressions with little ones — not just with kids on the autism spectrum, but with all children. I imagine telling a child to toss his table scraps into the garbage, he follows the command…from about 10 feet away from the garbage can!

As Emily enters adulthood, I will always be mindful of my communication as well as hers. In other words, if I’m only looking for some emotional reassurance, I probably won’t ask her how I look in my jeans!

I have to mean what I say, and say what I mean!

Follow this journey at Red Flags & Silver Linings. 

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Originally published: August 16, 2017
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