04/17/2012 11:17 am ET Updated Jun 17, 2012

Minus One Equals Zero

Emma reached for the last bag of Pirate's Booty the other day and said, "Minus one equals zero." Then she grabbed the bag and ate its contents.

I am constantly impressed with my 10-year-old autistic daughter Emma's mind and creative use of words. I often think when I listen to her that there's a kind of poetry in the way she phrases things, the way she will use seemingly unrelated words to describe something, such as "motorcycle bubbles" for the fireworks we see over the Fourth of July. It conjures up the noise, which she finds frightening, but also the visual image of bubbles, which I think she likes. I don't know if this is what she thinks of when she uses those words, but to me, it's beautifully descriptive in a nuanced and personal way. It's very "Emma."

Emma and I did some literacy work a few weeks ago, she was having a terrible time with a story we read and that she had to summarize. I mentioned to her therapist of seven years, Joe, that we had a tough session, so when he worked with her later he used no verbal language and she was able to fly through the work. During my session with Emma, I was reminded of something I read recently, written by an autistic adult who described how one day conversing and finding the correct words came relatively easily, but the following day, or even that afternoon, she found it almost impossible to express herself verbally.

I have become much more aware of Emma's sensory issues in the past few months from reading other blogs written by autistic adults. I have certainly been aware that Emma had to deal with a sensory overload, but how that manifested itself, what that actually meant to her, was something I had trouble understanding. Reading what it's like for some other autistic people has been enlightening. One of my favorite posts on the subject of language and words is written by E., who has a blog called The Third Glance. The post is entitled, "Words."

Another post, "Squawk? by Square 8," is another wonderful description of how talking can be akin to walking through a minefield for many on the spectrum. Sadly, this blog's last entry was in November 2010.

Minus one equals...

To follow Emma's journey through a childhood of autism, go to: Emma's Hope Book

For more by Ariane Zurcher, click here.

For more on autism, click here.