Sunday, November 1, 2015

Autistic ear, autistic voice

Nightengale "Autistic ear, autistic voice" from LiveJournal

As a (still) mostly closeted autistic, I didn’t participate in Autistic Speaking Day last year. The year before, I had written about why I was still in the shadows. And so last year, when the day came and went, I couldn’t think of anything to add.

I felt that way for much of this year as well. But then I thought about the ways I speak, and listen, as an autistic, for autistics, even when closeted.

Unusually (but not uniquely), for an autistic, my voice has long been my strength. I used words early and often. I wanted to know the name of everything. I puzzled over dogwood trees that didn’t bark (I barked at them) and a city called Braintree where there were no brains on the trees. I read and read and read. To this day, there are still words I know from reading which I have never heard spoken, which makes pronunciation a challenge if I ever do attempt to use them myself. I still read and read and read. I love that the words “read” past tense and “read” present tense are spelled the same but pronounced differently. I hear words spoken out loud in my head when I read or type. I cannot think in pictures without translating them into words first.

When older, I studied other languages. Latin, then French, then American Sign Language. Frustrated when my English teachers did not show us how to diagram sentences, I loved the structured way Latin grammar was taught. I loved my French 1 teacher’s insistence that French was not a code of English and the idea that languages were more than lists of words. I loved the grammatical markers of ASL, even though my visual processing challenges made and make them hard for me to see and master. I loved understanding English words with Latin roots and Greek roots and German roots and Arabic roots, and how that leads to multiple synonyms. I agree with Mark Twain, who is attributed to having said that the “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between a lightning bug and lightning.” Thinking about that quote makes me think about the way I learned the ASL for “lightening bug,” a story I cherish, and all the difference in nuance between “lightening bug” and “firefly” describing the same insect species. 

Read More Here. 

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