What Exactly Is Normal Anyway?

by beagooddad on October 11, 2007

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Someone’s Google search got me thinking. What exactly is normal?

The Google search that lead to my site was something along the lines of “will my autistic kid turn out normal?” Two thoughts always go through my head when I see stuff like that. First, I get defensive and a little angry. Some sort of defense mechanism apparently. Then I always remember the things that I have searched for in the past. Things like “will he outgrow echolalia” and “should autistic children be in traditional classrooms.” Google is a nice place to ask some pretty sensitive questions with pretty good anonymity. It is the modern day confessional and librarian all in one.

After that, I started framing the question in my Pookie-centric autism world. I am nowhere near an expert on autism but I do have a decent idea about what makes Pookie tick. What would it mean to someday say “Pookie turned out normal?” Then I ran away from thinking about it for a few days.

Here are some of my unorganized thoughts on Autism and normalcy as of 10/10/2007. Everything said below is subject to change at anytime.

Life Skills

We push Pookie pretty hard to learn how to do basic things like brush his teeth, get dressed, set the table, stop and look for cars before crossing the street. These are very important. Pookie is a healthy boy and extremely physically capable. Besides lack of understanding, there are no physical reasons why he can’t do these types of important things that “normal” people do all every day. We are working on developing the understanding and capability of doing these life skills. But does being able to crunch through all of the mini-checklists of life qualify somebody for normalcy?

Social Skills

Let’s say that Pookie masters all of the life skills and can work a job, live on his own, and cook himself dinner every night. That doesn’t say anything about his ability to make friends. Would being normal mean only having online friends? Only having one or two close friends? Having several friends and a relationship? Kids? Being able to have an argument and end up compromising on a solution?

Developing the social skills

BeAGoodMom and I are reading a book that pointed out something that I don’t often directly think about. I read one chapter the other day that talked about “Joining in.” This involves paying attention to the things autistic kids are stimming on and literally doing it with them. Getting excited about watching the top spin for an hour. Jumping up and down during the theme song for Arthur. The theory is that as you continue to participate in these type of events, the kid will start to associate the fun/comfort/distraction of the stimming with you. He will make more eye contact. He will talk more. Remember my post about watching Robots with Pookie. Without knowing the name, I was joining in. Over a short term it worked and I expect it to only get better the more often I do it.

Another thing that I think Joining In would be good for is getting the parents to really start to get a better idea about what their kid is interested in. Think about it. If you actually lay down on the ground and watch the top spin, you might really notice that a spinning top is pretty cool to look at. You might also get a better understanding of why a spinning top is cool but not a rolling ball. Maybe the air blowing on his face is part of the coolness. If you realize something like that, you can talk about it. And if you can talk about things he is interested in, that is probably going to make the conversation a little easier.

So, at this point in time, if I were to do that same Google search, I would be looking for information about autistic adults and the social life they have. Earlier today, I read a blog post about that talks a bit about normalcy. Which has some interesting thoughts about whether normalcy is being able to not use assistive devices but needing to exert much greater effort than most people would need (a wheelchair is the assistive device in the example) or being able to use the assistive devices to make it easier to do normal things.

Maybe everybody is normal but we’re all normal just a little bit differently.

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