THE LITERAL MIND OF AUTISTICS

Linda Gund Anderson, a mother of a young man with autism has written an amusing and interesting book entitled, “Unintentional Humor: Celebrating the Literal Mind of Autism.” Her book is a 160-page descriptive report of the many misunderstood phrases that her son Brent encountered when growing up. Brent, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome was the co-author and motivation for the book.

Taking things literally is a prevalent trait of those on the autism spectrum. It is with great difficulty that they  understand intangible concepts, connotations of non-tangible thoughts, objects or things. Hence, most of those with autism are concrete thinkers and are likely to focus on the “here and now”. They have great difficulty with generalizations. Integrated in the tangible reflection process is the inclination to take words or phrases literally. This can be a overwhelming for the autistic intellect because the English language is replete with slangs, puns and paradoxes,

Phrases such as “keep your eye on the ball,” “your in the dog house” and “give me a ring” meant entirely different to Brent, who had a tendency to misunderstand phrases and statements and took them quite literally. By working alongside an artist, Brent reenacted each account as he remembered and it was captured precisely as he envisioned it in his mind at the time. Linda as well recites stories together with many of the pictures, presenting humorous accounts occurring over the years with her son and others.

“Unintentional Humor” relates these general misunderstandings, that parents of verbal children with autism can relate to. It’s quite interesting to note that typical children maybe the ones who are a bit different since autistics understand the phrases as they are stated or many times as originally intended.

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