My son has struggled with communication his entire life. Ben was diagnosed with autism at age 2, began speaking at age 6 and did not engage in full conversations until age 10.
In the beginning, most of his language was mere repetition of words and phrases he heard repeatedly. This is called echolalia and is very common with children on the autism spectrum. Although this tendency elicited some very funny comments from Ben (for example, when asked at age 6 what he thought about his new haircut, he responded, "I feel like a new man," a phrase most likely gleaned from a TV commercial), I longed to hear his own thoughts put into words.
When he was a younger child, adults were amazed at the depth of Ben's questions and observations. This is, in part, due to the number of hours he spent talking with and mimicking the conversation styles of speech therapists and other caring adults. The problem for Ben was communicating with his peers in the language of the times.
Those who suffer from communication disorders have a difficult time using different forms of language at the appropriate time. We all know instinctively which words to use in business or personal situations and even these rules change depending on the relationship and setting. It is a complex world most of us navigate successfully without a second thought.
I realized it was time to teach Ben the underbelly of language when he came home from middle school and asked me if "p***y" was a bad word. It seems several of his classmates asked him if he knew a word that started with "p" and was another word for "cat." Of course, he fell for the joke and got in trouble for spewing a most unacceptable word in class.
I knew I would have to teach Ben these words eventually and I dreaded the task. I would have to explain which words could be used in which situations and with whom. This is a huge problem as most people with autism cannot gauge situations in a moment's glance as many neurotypical people are capable of doing. For example, you wouldn't go up to the Queen of England and say "Yo, bee-atch. How's it hanging?" For Ben, this is not such an easy distinction.
So, we began the lessons called "The Appropriate Use of Foul Language Which You Can Use Sometimes But Not Others and Only With Certain People and Sometimes Not Even Them."
As we began our studies, I realized I was going to have to EXPLAIN what all these words meant and that was another can of worms: female and male anatomy, sexual acts, varying forms of sexuality and the ever-popular and vast category of terms used for bodily fluids and excrement.
It's a good thing Ben and I have a wonderfully trusting relationship lest one of us certainly die of embarrassment. I know his queries are genuinely innocent, so I just suck it up and answer the best I can without choking. Not always an easy thing to do, people.
So, we've been cursing like sailors in our household for about a year now. It's a little strange because I have watched my tongue ever since my kids were babies but it is necessary for Ben to practice in a safe environment.
I know some people will criticize me for teaching him to curse, but he needs to know how the world really is before I send him out on his own. As we all know, men are particularly fond of their naughty words and I will not have him made fun of because he is not "cool" enough to know what these words mean.
Ben is getting more comfortable with these words. When I told him his dad's new girlfriend's name is "Pam," he smirked and said her name was really funny. Not following, I asked him why.
"You know, Pam. Like Pam Anderson? Not that I'm saying she's a ho or anything."
Yeah. We still have some work to do...