Day #254 – Behavior IS Communication

Yesterday I presented to a Child Development class at a local high school.  Afterwards their teacher and I had a lovely conversation in which she proposed that I present to all of their teachers.  She asked what I would charge.

I said nothing.

Something is always good – but this has never been, and will never be, about money (I hear my husband and mother groaning…lol).

I told her that increasing awareness, acceptance, and understanding has always been and will always be my goal. She said, “I just feel if people heard you and your message they would just have a little more compassion and maybe they would chill out just a bit.”

I responded, ‘If people simply focused on the fact that behavior is communication.’

I left that school thinking about that common phrase used by many of us in the spectrum world.  I thought about how it doesn’t just apply to spectrum children – but really to all of us. I had some time to really think about that statement.

Behavior is communication.

I left that school thinking about the years I have spent reading about and teaching students about nonverbal communication.  I couldn’t help but to make connections to that knowledge and my unique understanding of Tucker.  I had some time to really think about that statement.

Behavior is communication.

In nonverbal communication I teach…

  • Proxemics – how we utilize and understand space
  • Kinesics- body movement
  • Paralinguistics – what our vocal inflections communicate
  • Chronemics – how time communicates
  • Haptics – understanding touch
  • Artifacts – what our stuff communicates

Behavior IS Communication.

Tucker struggles with proxemics – often because of the vestibular difficulties.  The most basic of theories when it comes to proxemics is Hall’s Classification of Space.  In 1966 Edward Hall developed the idea that each of us has space bubble around us and we allow people into that space based on our relationship.

Intimate – 0 – 18 inches
Personal – 18 inches – 4 feet
Social – 4-8 feet
Public – 8 feet out

Neurotypical (NT):  When unknown people invade our intimate and personal space we react negatively.  These are implicit rules that are never taught.
ASD:  Tucker doesn’t recognize these arbitrary lines of space, therefore stands and sits in others’ intimate zones.
Result: The NT’s response to children on the spectrum causes stress to that child.  Telling the child to ‘move’ or ‘get their own space’ only further hurts the child.  The behavior they have exhibited is not ‘naughty’ it is simply a response to feel better in their world.

Behavior IS Communication.

Tucker struggles with paralinguistics or the ability to decipher meaning from the non-word portions of communication.

NT:  We understand what another is saying based on the emotion present ‘behind’ the voice.  We also understand that when a person wants to end a conversation they slow down at the end of sentences, drop their pitch, and take larger pauses between words.  These are implicit rules that are never taught.
ASD:  Tucker doesn’t often recognize the arbitrary meaning assigned to voice and language.  This is why understanding sarcasm is incredibly difficult.  He also doesn’t recognize when the ‘slow down, drop pitch, long pauses’ tactics are used to end a conversation. This is why he will simply continue talking and may talk ‘over you.’
Result:  The NT’s response to children on the spectrum causes stress to that child.  Becoming irritated because the child cannot pick up on these cues will only cause further anxiety about communication.The behavior they have exhibited is not ‘rude’ it is simply how they communicate in their world.

Behavior IS Communication.

Tucker struggles with kinesics or the way the we use movement to communicate.  Ray Birdwhistell was the first to use the term kinesics as a way to explain how people communicate through posture, movement, and gestures.  He argued that every movement has some type of meaning and each movement could be analyzed.  My favorite?  He concluded that there were no universals – it’s all arbitrary.

Awesome.  No wonder Tucker struggles.

NT:  Most of the time we understand what is being said in the gesture, movement, posture because we are able to understand the entire ‘communicative event.’  What does that mean?  It means that we are able to understand the several modes in which communication is arriving – the voice, the words, the movement, the time and place.  NT’s can take all of that in and make sense of it.  These meanings are implicit, we are never taught.
ASD:  Tucker doesn’t understand the arbitrary nature of movement, gestures, and postures.  He is spending the majority of his energy trying to make sense of the words.  How would he have any energy left to consider the meaning of movement, gestures, and posture?
Result:  The NT’s response to child on the spectrum causes stress to that child.  Becoming angry because he couldn’t ‘read between the lines’ is not the child’s issue.  The frustration they may exhibit is not uncalled for, it is simply a mechanism for attempting to make sense of the communicative event.

Behavior IS Communication. 

It’s really pretty simple.

My husband gets grouchy when he’s hungry.  Behavior IS Communication.  Get him a snack.

I cry when I am overly tired.  Behavior IS Communciation.  Get me a pillow and blankie.

We’re quite the pair…snackin’ and nappin’

dec-5-520x325

How does YOUR behavior communicate?

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Day #254 – Behavior IS Communication

  1. Truly amazing! I am on the Behavior Resource Team for AEA and we say this so many times! What is the behavior telling us?You are truly amazing and thank you for this!

    Like

    • Thank you Somer! Please feel free to share with your entire team and ANYONE who will listen. We’ve been blessed by teachers who will call and say, “Here is what’s happening…what do you think is really going on?” It’s amazing to be a part of the team – when we all work together we can *usually* get to the bottom of it and help him stay focused and balanced. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  2. Pingback: Day #279 – Tucker’s Version of Autism | 366 Days of Autism

  3. Pingback: Day #310 – Do It Myself | 366 Days of Autism

  4. Pingback: Day #327 – Indexing | 366 Days of Autism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s