Tom is his own man. He is not concerned with others’ opinions or concerns about things, he simply just marches to the beat of his own drum. Tom has a number of eccentricities. Even as a young child, he would often profess he could speak in another language and would talk animatedly to us in his own ‘tongue’ often becoming extremely frustrated by our lack of understanding. On occasion he will still do this. This unique form of communicating also extends to gestures.
Tom is not great at interpreting non-verbal communication at all. He will often say, “What is that face about, Mum?” because he finds it difficult to interpret facial expressions. Over time he has developed a number of his own gestures – kind of like sign language – which he uses with us but again … we have no idea what he’s trying to communicate and they are not learnable due to their inconsistency of formation. The other morning I asked him if he wanted jam or vegemite on his toast. His response was to extend his right hand towards me, nodding his head emphatically and bending his pointer finger. I became exasperated due to my lack of understanding (and time!) so he sighed and told me in a very patronising tone that this gesture was indicating both a ‘j’ for jam and also a ‘tick’ for yes!
I believe that with or without ASD Tom would be endearingly eccentric but his ASD perhaps makes some of his eccentricities easier to understand. Social communication deficits are a feature of ASD. A poor ability to interpret facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, reciprocal conversations, inferences and general social awareness skills (eg ability to match behaviour to situation) impact the individual’s ability to both interpret and interact in their social environment.
I think Tom’s eccentricities are fantastic. He is a creative thinker and he’s pretty comfortable spending time outside the box. Wonderful characteristics. I think this is all summarised beautifully by a brief conversation we had yesterday. As Tom was energetically talking to me in an unknown dialect whilst simultaneously twirling around in some freeform interpretative dance, I said to him laughing, “Tom, you are so silly!” and his response … “Mum … I am not silly… I am … a complete … lun-a-tic!” And we wouldn’t have it any other way, Tom xxxx