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#1 Centurion

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 01:31 AM

Hi,

In my current WIP (YA Dystopian), my main character's little brother of nine years has autism. Mind you, he's an autistic savant so he's very clever when it comes to tech and creating things but he still suffers from the inability to do basic things like buttoning his shirt or tying his shoe laces.

 

When it comes to writing dialogue, i find that i have a bit of a hard time because i am not quite sure the types of things an autistic child would say or the way he would say them. Would he shout? Do i need to spell things differently when it comes to his dialogue? Would he elude some words and add other unnecessary ones?

Another thing i really need help with would be the way he would act. Would he jump a lot at random times? Move his fingers oddly? Smile a lot? 

 

Any insight on the topic or tips as to how i could write him convincingly would be very much appreciated.

Thanks so much for your time =D



#2 Blitzing

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 05:06 AM

I interact regularly with a kid with autism (13 yo).

 

While talking, she looks very directly into my eyes, sometimes in a way that is disconcerting. She may make repetitive, random hand/finger movements when excited. There are sudden silences in the conversation - mostly when she doesn't know the answer to a question or wants to avoid it. She speaks in a very factual way - eg. if  I ask her 'What is Tom like?', she will say 'Tom lives in my building on the 5th floor. His mother's name is XYZ and his father's name is ABC. He comes to school with me.'

 

She conceives of the world in black and white eg. people are 'good' or 'bad'. No in between. Also, this characterization is often based on factual rather than intuitive info. eg. she might say that 'Ella is a good person because she gets good marks OR because she has good handwriting.'

 

It is difficult for her to express opinions. eg. If I say 'Did you like that movie?' she will mostly say 'yes'. She cannot explain why she liked it.

 

Basically, is is difficult for them to understand the things we intuitively know. For eg., if I tell this girl that she must not allow her neighbour to touch her, she may reply 'Why? Is he a bad person?'

 

Note that different autistic kids vary a lot. Many have linguistic issues also - they might repeat what you say eg. You say 'Did you go to school?' Kid: To school, to school.

 

Hope this helps!


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#3 Michelle4Laughs

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 07:49 AM

I work with autistic kids and they are all different. Some tend to totally close down when they get frustrated, others like to retreat to a small covered space, like under a table. Others react to frustration with anger and can stomp around or tear and throw things. They have trouble expressing the cause of their frustration and so resort to acting out or shutting down.

 

A lot of them only make eye contact randomly. Some have little understanding of personal space, but get right up in your face when they are happy with you. Rocking or fidgeting seems to be a common theme.

 

They all cling and love to follow a structured schedule. They hate change to their routine and it often causes problems. I can't stress enough how much schedule and routine means to them. They do tend to communicate with facts and the black or white thing is totally true. They either like something or they don't.

 

Some tend to fixate on something they enjoy and discuss it again and again. Such as space, a certain tv show, dinosaurs. The more severe have a hard time interacting with their peers, preferring to remain on the fringes, while the mildly autistic can interact more and merely come across as only a little different, a little more intense than other kids.  

 

I should add that a lot of noise and confusion bothers them. They are more sensitive to sound, sight, and touch, almost like their sense get put on overload.


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#4 LucidDreamer

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 09:10 AM

There is such a wide range on the autism spectrum, it's difficult to generalize, but the posters above have given you good advice.

 

I will say that my son (18) who has High Functioning Autism (similar to what has been called Asperger's, but not entirely the same) is VERY verbal and extremely good with language (reading or writing). However, he still has the social issues and the need for structure and the adverse reaction to over-stimulation (noise and confusion do bother him, as Michelle mentioned).

 

One thing that I was told by specialists is that often, children with the higher functioning levels of autism will appear fairly "normal" (whatever that is :smile: ) but they actually lag socially by at least 3 years. I have seen this to be true -- my son is 18 but acts more like a 15 year-old in terms of how he deals with other people, his goals, imagining/planning his future, etc.

 

My son also repeats a lot of "catch phrases" -- things he hears on TV or the radio or wherever.  He will use one incessantly for quite some time, then change it for whatever reason. When he was very little, this could be quite disconcerting. (He started saying "Mommy hit me" when we were in public, despite the fact that I NEVER hit him. I was always waiting for Social Services to come <sigh>). 


My son's obsession is history and computer games. He got in trouble at school a few times because he corrected his history teachers on some fact. (He was right, LOL).

 



 



#5 Yvette

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 09:42 AM

My 4yo nephew has autism.

 

His vocabulary is limited but his speech is very clear. He speaks in the third person, using his first and last name. He tends to repeat things he hears which make him sound out of context and it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. He attaches himself to strange objects - my sister said she has to buy a certain type of cereal...not because he likes to eat it, but because he walks around the house with the box and hugs it. He makes hand and finger movements that seem to be random, but they actually mean something. His parents always know what he means. He loves school and interacts very well one-on-one with his EA, but does not play with other kids. He will play around them, but not with them. He is not yet potty-trained. 

 

Things that trigger him are excessive noises and crowds. He will clap his hands over his ears and start singing. It looks cute but it's a sign of distress. He hates the usual noisy kid toys. He loves to look at books and Mickey Mouse. 

 

As others have mentioned, he is very structured. Changes to his routine are very disconcerting. His bedroom is ordered just the way he likes it. He does not make eye contact when speaking to you, but he will come for a hug if asked. When he wants to show his parents something, he pulls on their hand and says "Yes please" until they follow him. He will only do this with his parents.

 

I hope this helps. :)


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#6 Corin.Hamelton

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 09:59 AM

What hasn't been directly stated here is that with Autism, the filter is off.  Normally, we process extra sensory information by habituating ourselves to them.  ie) your cologne/perfume only smells for a moment or two and then disappears, but it's actually still there.  People can't find their glasses because they are on their head.  You see so much in your field of view but only focus on a few things... those are filtered because it is too much to continually process.

 

Children with autism have a much greater difficulty filtering so loud noises or crowds or whatever become overwhelming for them.  It also gives them a different perspective that can be beneficial in respect to areas like math or science. 

 

There's much more to say so I recommend you do a little research.  Understanding the nature of the disorder will really help you to develop your character.


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#7 Midnight Whimsy

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 11:41 AM

My cousin has autism. She is 18 now, but she seems a lot like a young teenager in behavior. She can take the bus to school by herself (after lots of accompanied practice) but she'll never be able to live by herself. The others have already pointed out some common themes. Verbally, repetition and mimicking are very common. My cousin will repeat the same comment, in the same tone, every few minutes until she gets a reaction. For example, if her family is visiting and she's done with it, she'll say, "Let's go home now -- just kidding!" over and over. She says the "just kidding" even though, to us, it's completely obvious it's not a joke at all, but she learned it's an easy way to get out of trouble for saying things her parents don't like. Keep in mind, this is an 18-y-o, but the behavior seems much younger. She'll repeat things in the same tone she heard them, like harsh sarcasm she heard from her sister talking to a friend or something.

 

An example my aunt just posted on FB -- she asked her daughter what she wanted wanted for Christmas. Her reply: "Um.... you!" You never quite know how they'll respond. Of course, right after that she said she wanted a flat-screen TV. Again, repeating something she heard, but often nonsensical and out of context. What would she want a flat screen TV for? Their family already has one.

 

If you want to do some research where you can really see what autism is like in action, I recommend the movies Mercury Rising and What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Both performances are extremely accurate (in my opinion). The boy in Mercury Rising would be a severe case and really illustrates the autistic dependence on routine and the distressing struggle to communicate.

 

Hope that helps!

 

M.W



#8 Centurion

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 11:42 AM

Thank you all so much for your amazing and speedy responses. It has really helped me better understand the topic of autism and how it would affect a person. I certainly feel more capable when it comes to portraying the character. Once again, thanks so much! :D



#9 Centurion

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 11:46 AM

My cousin has autism. She is 18 now, but she seems a lot like a young teenager in behavior. She can take the bus to school by herself (after lots of accompanied practice) but she'll never be able to live by herself. The others have already pointed out some common themes. Verbally, repetition and mimicking are very common. My cousin will repeat the same comment, in the same tone, every few minutes until she gets a reaction. For example, if her family is visiting and she's done with it, she'll say, "Let's go home now -- just kidding!" over and over. She says the "just kidding" even though, to us, it's completely obvious it's not a joke at all, but she learned it's an easy way to get out of trouble for saying things her parents don't like. Keep in mind, this is an 18-y-o, but the behavior seems much younger. She'll repeat things in the same tone she heard them, like harsh sarcasm she heard from her sister talking to a friend or something.

 

An example my aunt just posted on FB -- she asked her daughter what she wanted wanted for Christmas. Her reply: "Um.... you!" You never quite know how they'll respond. Of course, right after that she said she wanted a flat-screen TV. Again, repeating something she heard, but often nonsensical and out of context. What would she want a flat screen TV for? Their family already has one.

 

If you want to do some research where you can really see what autism is like in action, I recommend the movies Mercury Rising and What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Both performances are extremely accurate (in my opinion). The boy in Mercury Rising would be a severe case and really illustrates the autistic dependence on routine and the distressing struggle to communicate.

 

Hope that helps!

 

M.W

Thanks so much for the response, it was extremely helpful! Will definitely be checking out those two sources. Btw, i love that you do all your commenting in purple! :D


I interact regularly with a kid with autism (13 yo).

 

While talking, she looks very directly into my eyes, sometimes in a way that is disconcerting. She may make repetitive, random hand/finger movements when excited. There are sudden silences in the conversation - mostly when she doesn't know the answer to a question or wants to avoid it. She speaks in a very factual way - eg. if  I ask her 'What is Tom like?', she will say 'Tom lives in my building on the 5th floor. His mother's name is XYZ and his father's name is ABC. He comes to school with me.'

 

She conceives of the world in black and white eg. people are 'good' or 'bad'. No in between. Also, this characterization is often based on factual rather than intuitive info. eg. she might say that 'Ella is a good person because she gets good marks OR because she has good handwriting.'

 

It is difficult for her to express opinions. eg. If I say 'Did you like that movie?' she will mostly say 'yes'. She cannot explain why she liked it.

 

Basically, is is difficult for them to understand the things we intuitively know. For eg., if I tell this girl that she must not allow her neighbour to touch her, she may reply 'Why? Is he a bad person?'

 

Note that different autistic kids vary a lot. Many have linguistic issues also - they might repeat what you say eg. You say 'Did you go to school?' Kid: To school, to school.

 

Hope this helps!

Huge thanks! This was extremely helpful! :D



#10 Centurion

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 11:48 AM

There is such a wide range on the autism spectrum, it's difficult to generalize, but the posters above have given you good advice.

 

I will say that my son (18) who has High Functioning Autism (similar to what has been called Asperger's, but not entirely the same) is VERY verbal and extremely good with language (reading or writing). However, he still has the social issues and the need for structure and the adverse reaction to over-stimulation (noise and confusion do bother him, as Michelle mentioned).

 

One thing that I was told by specialists is that often, children with the higher functioning levels of autism will appear fairly "normal" (whatever that is :smile: ) but they actually lag socially by at least 3 years. I have seen this to be true -- my son is 18 but acts more like a 15 year-old in terms of how he deals with other people, his goals, imagining/planning his future, etc.

 

My son also repeats a lot of "catch phrases" -- things he hears on TV or the radio or wherever.  He will use one incessantly for quite some time, then change it for whatever reason. When he was very little, this could be quite disconcerting. (He started saying "Mommy hit me" when we were in public, despite the fact that I NEVER hit him. I was always waiting for Social Services to come <sigh>). 


My son's obsession is history and computer games. He got in trouble at school a few times because he corrected his history teachers on some fact. (He was right, LOL).

 


 

Thanks so much Lucid! This was immensely helpful. I really hadn't been expecting all the responses i had received but i am so grateful :D PS, your son sounds like a savant to me! Oh how i wish i could have corrected some of my teachers on some things. Do say hi for me :) And once again, thanks!



#11 Midnight Whimsy

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 12:10 PM

Thanks so much for the response, it was extremely helpful! Will definitely be checking out those two sources. Btw, i love that you do all your commenting in purple! :D

 

No problem! And the purple makes it really easy to spot my own posts. Quite handy. Plus, I like purple. ;)

 

M.W



#12 jadah

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 12:24 PM

A former class mate's young son has Asperger's (hope my spelling is correct). I don't have too much experience with autism, but I just remember her talking about how he couldn't quite empathize with people and would say the most inappropriate things at times (one example she gave was when they went to a family member's funeral and he would yell, "She's in a box.")


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#13 LucidDreamer

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 12:39 PM

jadah, yes -- empathy and understanding of how others feel is often lacking. My son will complain about other teens saying something about him, but he doesn't seem to understand that is JUST as bad when he says something equally mean back to them. 

 

It is very difficult. I love my son, but there are times when I don't like his actions or behavior (at all). Also, I've never actually felt that he was truly letting me know how he feels -- probably because he doesn't really understand it himself.

 

But he DOES feel things. He is not unemotional. He just has trouble understanding/expressing emotions (or, at least, appropriate emotions).



#14 mwsinclair

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 01:49 PM

Both my girls have been diagnosed as on the spectrum. The key is that it's a spectrum -- there's a wide range of traits that characterize a child with autism. That's certainly the case with my girls. One is quite fluent and her only apparent issues after a couple years of therapy are behavioral delays that she's made great progress to remedy. The other (they're twins) rarely speaks in four-word sentences. She also has a raft of other issues (refusing to eat a number of foods, sensory issues, frequent tantrums...) that make her other idiosyncracies (e.g., infrequent eye contact vs. the occasional deep view where she seems to see inside your soul) seem totally normal.

 

As the others have said, do your research. Lord knows, there are numerous examples of children with autism; it's diagnosed in 1 of 88 children now, I believe.



#15 Centurion

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 10:22 PM

Thanks everyone, for your responses. It's really helped. I will surely be doing a lot more research to acquire a little more knowledge in the topic. =D



#16 LucidDreamer

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 08:12 AM

Temple Grandin -- who is autistic but has acquired a PhD -- has several books, articles, etc. that you might want to check out. Page on Amazon -- http://www.amazon.co...7859&sr=8-2-ent



#17 Yvette

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 09:56 AM

Temple Grandin -- who is autistic but has acquired a PhD -- has several books, articles, etc. that you might want to check out. Page on Amazon -- http://www.amazon.co...7859&sr=8-2-ent

I was trying all day yesterday to remember her name.  :tongue:


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#18 jadah

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 11:06 AM

Yes! She has a TED talk. Interesting stuff.


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#19 Jemi

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 10:26 PM

Have to say I LOVE our community here! What amazing thoughtful responses everyone has made!

 

As a teacher I have a fair amount of experience with kids diagnosed with autism too - and no 2 kids have been alike. I won't go into details as you've had a great variety of responses, and I think everyone has pointed out that the autism spectrum encompasses a huge variety of 'symptoms' (of course feel free to ask more specific questions as you delve into your research!)

I found the book 'the curious incident of the dog in the night-time' intriguing. the main character is a teen with autism and how he relates the story is fascinating. Might be worth a look :) Good luck!






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