I’m aware that I’ve gained a few new followers recently – thank you so much and welcome to my ramblings and wonderings – so I thought it might be a good time to briefly explain the William connection before launching into another post about him and autistic spectrum perception.
William is a young man in his mid twenties, whom I met almost 20 years ago. He began as a pupil in a class I was teaching – a class for kids with speech and language difficulties. A set of circumstances which might be considered very strange, if you didn’t believe in pre-planned soul contracts, caused our paths to cross and re-cross in many ways, so that even now we are the best of friends. Despite the fact that he is only able to communicate with me through text and email at present, I still have longer and deeper communications with him than with anyone else I know.
So yes, to begin with I believed my role was to teach William to communicate. He had oral dyspraxia, which meant he had a very limited range of speech sounds. Additionally he was on the autistic spectrum, which meant that social communication – reading body language, facial expressions, tone of voice etc. was challenging for him. He made excellent progress, no denying that. However at the same time, he and a couple of his classmates began teaching me other ways of communicating – ways I’d never dreamed of.
Alan could ‘beam’ states of mind into my head. I didn’t have to be facing him, or even thinking about him, to find that I was aware that he was feeling angry, frustrated, impatient or in need of help. Martin’s speciality was sending words to me. I could ‘hear’ what he was saying, although no words had been spoken aloud, sometimes from across the building. Once I spotted him and made eye contact, he’d give the briefest of nods, meaning, “Good, you got it.”
William was on another level entirely. “I think,” he told me, rather deferentially, one morning when he was about eight, “I should tell you that I’m telepathic.”
He waited, a slight smile playing around his lips, for the full impact to sink in.
“You mean you can read my mind?” I asked, suddenly feeling horribly exposed.
He nodded, allowing the smile to break loose.
Of course the children used this form of communication amongst themselves all the time. I’d often wondered how a bunch of kids with only the most rudimentary verbal language abilities were able to engage in imaginative games, with each of them understanding their role perfectly. Once William twigged that I was sometimes able to pick up snippets of their telepathic communication, he took it upon himself to tutor me in these skills, although never overtly.
It’s subtle, this hidden communication – infinitely so. By comparison, spoken language is crass and imperfect. Our labels and descriptions, no matter how extensive our vocabulary, are often open to misinterpretation or simply inadequate to convey our true intent.
Having spent a lifetime closely observing children of all ages, and in particular watching my own three and my two grandchildren develop language, I firmly believe that all humans begin life with the subtle, non-verbal language.
“Oh, she understands so much of what we say,” parents will tell you as they cradle an infant in their arms.
Maybe. I suspect the tiny person is understanding far more of what the parent thinks. I also believe she is using this telepathic (for want of a better word) skill to communicate her needs to the mother. Most would not put this at more than a ‘close bond’ between mother and child. What, though, if it’s something far greater?
Once they had learned to speak clearly and to follow the conventions of conversation, my little students more-or-less ceased using their telepathy. Our society places great value on effective spoken and written language. The children – Will included – worked diligently to improve these. I was busily congratulating myself on our success and only dimly aware of what we had lost in the process.
As I’ve said, though, this was a soul contract, and although the children went their different ways and I moved back into mainstream teaching, William and I still had far more to teach one another.
We stayed in touch. Sometimes we’d have long, rambling, fascinating conversations that would last for hours, and I’d be amazed at how brilliantly he’d picked up the ability to speak. At other times, though, he’d withdraw for days, weeks or even months at a time. Conventional language caused too much stress and the best I could hope for was a single word text to let me know he was still alive or a ‘beamed’ impression of his state of mind. Not great, usually.
Now it’s come full circle. Yesterday, William sent me a draft article for inclusion in his second book. It’s a stunner.
He begins by explaining how it is for people on the autistic spectrum to attempt to learn social communication. Ruefully, he says:
Having to learn such skills is generally very difficult and time consuming. An analogy may be learning a second language which for the vast majority, autistic or not, is again very difficult and time consuming. And even then, few who learn a second language can match the fluency and competency of a native speaker whose language skills developed naturally as part of growing up.
He bemoans the fact that, despite this, the non-autistic population expect perfection from those challenged in this way.
Later, he begins to consider the reason computer-based language is easier for ASP people to manage:
Many autistic people demonstrate a good level of competency with computers – likely to be linked to their operation depending on clearly defined protocols and mathematics, things which are very different to how social communication and interaction works. Most communication between people which occurs via computers is in a written format, offering a greater similarity with the clearly defined operating protocols of a computer, since written communication often takes a more formal and literal interpretation of language than face to face communication. This also removes the need to attempt to understand body language and tone of voice – things often problematic for those with autism.
Only in the final paragraph does he allow his thoughts to wander into that other type of communication – the early ‘telepathy’ and our more recent forays into ‘remote viewing’. William isn’t certain that either of these terms fully encompass or describe what is actually taking place.
[ASP people] have a naturally different method of accomplishing [communication]. What exactly that method is I don’t believe is fully understood at present by either autistics or non-autistics. I don’t believe the correct words have been attributed to autistic matters to describe or explain it properly. I suspect at some point this will be achieved and hopefully will allow for autism to be harnessed to it’s full potential and remedy the blindness of so many.
I hope so, William.
We are still compiling The Words of William Volume Two. Volume One is available via Amazon as a paperback in the UK, Europe and North America and as a Kindle edition worldwide.