Q13: Adventures in the Mainstream

Q13) “I should say something her about Ned’s conversation with himself.  It started when he was a toddler, and may never end.  When he was very young we thought it was gibberish, baby talk for a very old baby.  We assumed he was mouthing meaningless syllables just to hear his own voice, almost as a way to keep himself company.  …  It occurred to me that Ned had never been just babbling.  He was always reciting stories that he liked to hear. …

Cathy and I are so accustomed to it by now that we hardly notice, but occasionally I’ll see strangers looking at Ned when he’s off in a corner, slowly rocking back and forth and talking to himself.  A therapist once told us this was classic autistic behavior.  He was surprised to see Ned doing it.  “Usually autistics and people with Down syndrome have exactly the opposite personalities,” he said.  He told us not to worry about it, and we never have.  Some outsiders, however, seem to enjoy worrying about it, and stare at the poor little retarded boy talking to himself like he’s playing with matches and why don’t I do something about it?  They don’t know the secret, and I feel no obligation to explain that he’s telling himself stories and not just babbling.  After all, I made the same mistaken assumption myself.  I especially feel no need to tell Ned to stop, no matter where we are.  That endless monologue is so much a part of him, it would be like asking John Muir to give up the Sierras, or Bonnie Raitt to knock off all that singing.  It’s a manifestation of his memory and his imagination, two of the real joys of Ned.” pp. 31-32

Does your loved one engage in self-talk?  Do you try to curtail it or discourage it in public?  What was your reaction to the doctor’s claim that “autistic” and people with Down syndrome have “opposite personalities.” (Keep in mind that the book was written in 2005 – presumably before dual diagnosis was common.)

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