Autistic Leading

When she wants something she comes and takes me by the hand and leads me into the kitchen. Then she thrusts my hand toward the freezer. That’s her way of telling me that she wants a popsicle. Or, if she wants to go outside, she leads me to the door and pushes my hand toward the door knob. Every day, she does this. Many, many times a day.

It’s called autistic leading, and it’s regarded as a “primitive” form of communication.

Sometimes autistic leading gets on my nerves. Because I’m usually busy blogging doing something important when my hand is suddenly hijacked and I’m dragged to the freezer. Because she is so very persistent, and even though I’ve already tried to explain that, no, you cannot have another popsicle because you have not eaten dinner, she insists on dragging me to the freezer over and over again. Because sometimes I wish for the life of me that she would “just use words!”

Bad mommy confession time. In moments of frustration, there have been times when I have removed my hand. That is, I stick my hand in my pocket or behind my back… I do not allow her to take my hand and lead me to the refrigerator. When I have done this, her ability to get what she wants – her primary means of communicating what she needs – is removed. It’s almost as if I have rejected her, cut her off. She crumbles to the floor in frustration, and she cries. It breaks my heart every time.

So I let her lead me.

Even if when we get where we’re going the answer will still be ‘no’. At least I know she was able to communicate her wishes.

It makes me wonder how often I have removed my hand – cut off communication – when the Father wants to lead. The well-known Psalm 23 says “He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” How often do I miss out on those quiet waters because I refuse to follow, because I will not be led? Communing with God and taking His lead is not so complicated really. Maybe for starters, it just means we unclinch our fist and hold out our hand.

13 thoughts on “Autistic Leading

  1. Beautiful Jeneil. I love the word picture you drew and can feel the tug, which Reid still does on occasions when I say no to something. It is his last ditch effort to coerce; if the words don’t work, maybe the pulling will. Do you ever do it to Rhema when you want to show her something? Wonder if the reciprocity thing might resonate. I will forever picture you when I hear that verse now, he leadeth me…so much more tangible than picturing myself as a sheep:) much as I do love A Shepherd’s Look at the 23rd Psalm by Phillip Keller. Have you read that? There’s a children’s version too…

  2. Question; and if you’ve already discussed this, forgive me. Since Rhema uses her hand to communicate, can you do the same with her? Can she learn that a certain hand signal means, for example, “Wait.” Or “Two minutes”?

  3. Insightful, as always :). Bitty does the same thing, has for a long time even though he is able to verbally communicate at least the basics now. He can tell me he wants a drink, but he’s just as likely to just come open up my hand and shove his cup into it, or take my hand and drag me to the fridge (or lately, get the milk from the fridge himself and bring it to me, lol). I hate to admit it, but I have taken my hand away sometimes too… because it does get frustrating (especially when he has insistently dragged me somewhere 3 times in the last 10 minutes!). It’s especially frustrating when the answer is no and he seems not to understand that (perhaps it’s just not what he wants to hear? so he figures if he keeps asking the answer will change?).

  4. Anonymom, Great question. Rhema does use PECS sometimes to tell me what she wants. (She will sometimes bring the PECS symbol to me… but then she takes my hand and leads). Once we get to the freezer or door, I model the appropriate language for what she is requesting. Also, lately, I’ve been prompting her to say, “Come” when she reaches for my hand. I also use the sign for Wait – she knows what it means, but it doesn’t mean she waits! 8)

  5. I was going to ask if she uses pecs?? Kids show you the picture of what they want instead of dragging you around. Then they can start to relate words to the pictures. It may say popcicle under the picture. You can have velcro on the back and some children who don’t verbally communicate can make sentences with them etc. It sounds like that would be something to look into. Whoever any of your therapists are should be able to get them for you. Boardmaker has thousands and thousands of pics.

  6. I agree, God is always there, but sometimes we pinch ourselves off from that never ending Source.

    My child has led me places I never thought I’d go. From the ultimate in frustration to bliss that can’t be described.

    The bliss is the God part.

    : )

  7. Ah, yes, the leading. Nigel would do the same before he could talk, and usually to the refrigerator as well. We also used PECS – they were all over the house. But he preferred to take my hand and lead me. I often wonder if that is an indicator of how much they crave a connection. We have so much to learn from them!

  8. This post reminded me of Amy Grant’s Lead Me On. I haven’t heard it in ages; it’s still so great.

    Lead me on
    Lead me on
    To a place where the river runs
    Into your keeping, oh
    Lead me on
    Lead me on
    The awaited deliverance
    Comforts the seeking…lead on

    Really – just as I pulled up a listen, Grayson came to me and grabbed my hand. With her perfunctory, “IIII! want walking MOMMY!”, off we went.

    Your way of bringing these moments into a new perspective – seeing our relationship with Christ, is a gift.

    Following with you.

  9. Kayla usually brings us the photo of whatever item she wants, but if we don’t want her to have it, we put the picture away. Of course, that doesn’t deter her, because then she’ll go back to the “leading by the hand” (usually to the freezer where her waffles are or the cabinet where her cookies are!)

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