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The Glass Half Full or How to See the World Through the Eyes of a Non-Verbal Autistic

by Brad Ludwig

Alex believes that sharks laugh.

I made this discovery while asking him what sounds animals make. Do you remember the See N Say ?  I was quizzing Alex on the sounds that animals make.

What does the bear say?
What does the tiger say?
What does the lion say?
What does the shark say?

Why did I ask Alex what does the shark say?

In the real world, sharks don’t make any sound. I wanted to see what Alex had learned from his favorite movie, Finding Nemo. The scene that makes the most impact with me, is when Bruce freaks out and starts chasing Marlin and Dory. He stopped being jovial and became a killer. He busts through the bulkhead of the sunken submarine and screams “RAWR” at them, at one point. In my head, that would be Alex’s response. He’d lump the Rawr sounding animals together. Instead, the scene that resonated with him was the point where Bruce is joking with Marlin and Dory and laughs out loud.

I thought, “What an incredible discovery!” That soon gave way to a number of other questions.

  • Have we raised Alex in a way that he would notice and enjoy laughter more?
  • Is he telling us that he enjoys people with a sense of humor?
  • Does he just love to laugh?

He does enjoy laughing. It is rich and melodious. It’s one of the few sounds he can make with his mouth that he doesn't need to think about. It just flows naturally from him.

There are times when he needs physical sensory input and needs to be tickled. His sign for wanting tickles is pinching his index finger and thumb together. He gets that from me. When he was a toddler, I’d build up anticipation to tickling him by slowly moving closer to him and making that same hand gesture, with both hands. The laughter from the anticipation of the tickles would pour out of him. Then when I’d finally tickle him, he’d get red faced with his laughter.

By Derek Jensen (Tysto) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

I’d like to believe that the answer is that we've raised Alex in a way that he’d notice the happy emotion as opposed to the angry one. Looking at life with the glass half full is the better way to go. He has more obstacles ahead and a solid foundation of positivity will be better for him, in the long run.