“Wow. Look how tall that guy is!” The woman said.
“He looks like he knows what he is doing. Lets ask him for directions,” the man suggested. “Excuse me sir, can you tell us how to get to the Constitution Center?” Questioned the man.
“Yes of course. You can take the bus but it’s more faster to take the el to Fifth St. and when you get off, you see the glass building, you’re there,” David replied.
“I don’t mean to be rude but how old are you exactly?” Asked the woman.
“Fifteen,” answered David as he looked past the couple.
“Oh, we thought you were in college or something, you seem so mature. Well, thank you for your time,” the woman responded.
David Lawrence Hummel. Fifteen years old, brown hair, brown eyes and six foot three. When you first see my brother, you don’t think something like, ‘he’s weird,’ or ‘abnormal’ because the average person is not so judgemental or critical. They would usually think something more along the lines of, ‘wow, he is so tall.’ At the age of fifteen, he was used to being identified as a college student rather the the high school sophomore he really was. He even spoke with the vocabulary and confidence of an adult. However, if anyone spent some time with him, like I do every day, they would come to the conclusion that there is something different about him that is unlike everybody else. This is because David has Aspergers.
Aspergers is a type of Autism and typically, people with Autism have a difficult time communicating with others, among other things. Depending on the level of Autism, their communication skills could be better or worse. In this case, David talks very quickly and with multiple grammatical errors and when people want him to repeat what he has said, he doesn’t understand why. This usually also affects the groups of people that he can communicate with easily. David for example, socializes more with adults and people that are older than him more easily than with his own peers. This is no fault of his own though, it is merely who he is.
“David, you need to make friends with the people in your class, I know you try but spitting out history facts is not the way to do it.”
“But mom, no one listens ever to me and everyone acts like crazy people and none of them like anything I like.”
“I understand, but it is a two-way street. And it would be ‘ever listens to me.’ If you try to like the things they like, they might try to like what you like too.”
“But it is no use! No one listens to me!” David storms off to his room to put his face in his pillow, where he goes into his own world.
Now that my brother is in high school, it would make his life simpler if he could socialize with people his own age but because of the Aspergers, it is very challenging for him to do that. Once he has an opinion of a person, it is difficult for him to give the person another chance. When conversations about making friends that the lead to meltdowns come up, there is little to no chance anyone can get through to him. My mom tries, I try and if he has still not come back to the real world, my father comes it to talk some sense into him but he is a little too harsh. That is why he is the last resort. Language within my family changed to accommodate his changes and language tendencies. We speak more clearly, emphasizing various grammatical ideas. We also correct him when he makes an error in his speech to help him to not make the mistake as often. In the book Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston says, “I cut it so that you would not be tongue tied.Your tongue would be able to move in any language.” Just like Maxine’s mother, we talk to David and correct him the way we do for his benefit more than our own. Between family, peers and elders, his way of language shifts from one group to another.
“I am more faster and more stronger than you,” David says.
“First of all, you are wrong about both of those things. Second of all, you can not say ‘more’ and an ‘-er’ word together! Ugh, that irks me so much.” I corrected.
“More funnier, more smarter, more shinier!” David mocked.
“Mom!” I screamed.
With adults, David is more comfortable speaking and this is generally because, in my opinion, adults still view him as a child, or lesser than they are since he has yet to officially become an adult. They view him as they would any other child, listening to every word, asking questions and being amazed at what he says no matter how intriguing or irritating. There are also some adults who are legitimately fascinated by what David has to say and knows like our Uncle Josh, for example, who is a high school history teacher. On these occasions, it may as well be two adults having a historical debate on whether the Union or Confederacy truly succeeded in the Civil War.
Adults have maturity that can not be found in most young people and David realizes people’s levels of maturity by how they speak and act, the two usually linking together in some way. Stereotypically, people that have bad grammar or that use a lot of slang are thought of as poorly educated, which links to lousy schools in inferior neighborhoods resulting in bad people. Most times, he makes these connections, making it harder for him to let go of some of these stereotypes to collaborate with peers and friends.
When socializing and talking to people of his own age, he talks about history and facts the same way he would with an adult, but that is not entertaining to the greater majority of teens. As a result, a lot of the kids at school don’t like to talk to him on a regular basis, making it very challenging for him to make new friends that understand him and how he talks. Me, his own sister, does not even like talking to him for very long because it is a challenge to get him to talk about anything other than factual information. He doesn’t realize that people feel this way.
“Did you know that President Arthur is the president who owned the most pairs of pants?”
“How about that Taft had the biggest bathtub as any president?”
“Yes, but I don’t really care David, I am trying to do something here.”
“Oh. Sorry, Lauren.”
David is oblivious to the opinion of others. When I try to help him point this out, my mom tells me to stop because I am being mean when I am just trying to help him. The only way he understands, is if you tell him how you feel right to his face. First, when talking to adults, he thinks that they are having the most amazing time learning about history and the presidents rather whatever they were previously talking about. Only because they hadn’t said otherwise. But then with his peers, he realizes that the people with whom he is speaking are not that interested in what he is talking about but he continues to talk about it anyway until someone says something. He does not know where to draw the line between ‘people are enjoying talking about this’ and ‘they could not care less about what I am saying.’ Being oblivious makes it very difficult to get through to people.
Our language helps to define who we are and when there are flaws in it, it is implied that there are deeper flaws within ourselves. When there are flaws that are actually there, language aside, those imperfections only make it harder to get through the daily struggle of language in life.
Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior. South Yarmouth, Ma.: J. Curley, 1978. Print.