Lifelong Learning

 The philosopher and the autistic man

Questions flowing back and forth
like the tidal waves flowing in and out.
We talk and share,
the philosopher friend and me.

I know he respects my mind
and challenges me to think
as we consider each other’s perspectives.
I hear his questions in my mind
and I dig down to find the truth.

I know his questions are more
than merely intellectual,
he wants to understand me.
I wish to understand him as well
and how he sees the world.

I wonder if we are more alike than different.
I look for patterns,
he looks for meaning.
We are both seekers
on a logical voyage of learning.

Do you want to come along
on our journey of discovery?
We can take passengers too. 
AB 8 August 2012

 More About Me:

What makes me the person I am?
I think it is a combination of things:
My parents’ love and example;
My friends’ support;
My experiences, good and bad;
Learning, communicating, working.
It is a lifelong process becoming a person.

Because I could not speak, most people assumed I had no intelligence or feelings about other people. So they did not put much effort into helping me to learn or express myself in alternative ways. I did teach myself to read informally, from quite an early age. I followed the words on the page when stories were read to me.

I was first introduced to the alternative system of communication that we call Supported Typing when I was 23. It helped to have this way of expressing myself to be able to survive some hard years in the 1990s. But there were few opportunities then for developing my literacy and thinking skills to learn about other people and the world.

When I moved into my own home, my learning opportunities increased in several ways.

My full-time tutor for the first two years got me copy-typing and introduced me to poetry. Both have become key parts of my life today. Copy typing is a very useful way to learn, as I learn through three senses—sight, touch and hearing. I read the text of article, book or other document; I take in the meaning a second way through my finger tips as I type; and then I hear the computer voice speaking back what I have typed.

My mother has used the Social Story technique to prepare me for new situations or experiences or interactions with new people. This had been a valuable form of social learning for me. The Social Story is a strategy developed by Carol Gray from 1991 to help people on the autism spectrum prepare for new experiences and relationships. “A Social Story™ describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format. The goal of a Social Story™ is to share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience.” The Gray Center website is at:

Since 2000, I have also been fortunate to have regular sessions of communication using Supported Typing in which I can comment on my life, ask questions and request experiences or new forms of learning. In being supported to communicate deeper thoughts, I have developed as a person. I started to ask for learning materials on various subjects. For example, I asked to learn about physics, geology and the environment and also about autism what is different about the brains of autistics. I also wanted to learn about the lives and achievements of people who overcame barriers in their lives.

Once my interest and abilities were revealed, my supporters have given me more input and materials to grow with. I tell my supporters that I want to learn more about various topics. So they get me books and films and we search the Internet to find what I need. I love to copy-type from these materials and learn through several senses.

I feel as if I have been admitted to high school, or even university. The more I type the more my brain power grows. I am able to express higher thoughts about important topics and world issues, and to advocate for myself and others.

For a long time, I avoided watching much TV. When I did I usually preferred to listen than to see. When I both looked and heard, it was hard for my sensory systems. I have now trained myself to be able to watch and listen at the same time. So I watch various good news programmes like the BBC World news and TVOntario’s The Agenda. My parents and I also watch high-quality DVDs about anything and everything from cosmology and geology, archaeology and history, to music and poetry. So far I prefer non-fiction, but we are venturing into fiction through biography and drama. I’ll let you know how I get on.