Sunday, January 18, 2015

RIBBIT RABBIT and MOO HOO: Bineuralism and Autistic Children's Literature

After receiving feedback from parents of ASD children that my books were "autistic," I spent a long time mulling over what that meant, or what it could mean-- not just about my own neurology and my own books, but about an entire body of unacknowledged and underexplored children's literature.  After all, my books couldn't be the only ones.

As I focused, in particular, on two of my books, Ribbit Rabbit and Moo Hoo, the concepts of native neurology and bineuralism emerged, borrowed from similar concepts in the field of linguistics.  The neurology we're born with, that which is native to us, has a degree of plasticity to it.  Indeed, this very malleability is the reason why early intervention can work for many on the Spectrum.  Even outside the chronology of childhood, autistic individuals can make gains and experience success in "cracking the code" of the nonautistic world.  Such individuals could possibly even fit a description of being "bineural."

A bineural individual would have ASD as his/her native neurology, but through external intervention
supports and/or internal regulating processes, would be able to "speak" the nonautistic neurology, as well.  What's one example of what this looks like?  Some autistic individuals can learn "standard" in-person greeting procedures (i.e., those preferred by the nonautistic population).  While the ritual of making eye contact, shaking hands/hugging, and saying "hello" may not be the most natural of social expressions for those on the Spectrum, there are autistic individuals who can "speak this other language."

This is where Ribbit Rabbit and Moo Hoo enter the conversation.  If conceptualizing neurology as language can help support our understanding of the autistic experience, then endowing neurology with its own language, literally, may prove even more useful.  From my own perspective, I view Ribbit Rabbit and Moo Hoo as books written for two voices, or, more boldly, for two neurologies.

Each book, as I see it, is written in both English and "Autlish" (I have the "l" there mostly so that it won't be pronounced "oddish").  The English appears as the "straight-ahead" prose, and the "Autlish" appears as the highly-patterned poetry.  

A nonautistic way to describe two friends playing might sound like, "They fight monsters together;" whereas, an autistic expression of the same action might sound like, "Ribbit Rabbit.  Zip it, zap it."  I think imagining an "Autlish" language could go far in helping many understand and work with the special characteristics of autistic linguistics, including the phenomenon of echolalia.

If viewed a certain way, Ribbit Rabbit and Moo Hoo appear as translated texts.  Every phrase of prose English is translated into its corresponding phrase of Autlish.  Notice that I did not say "rhyming" Autlish.  This "dialect" of Autlish rhymes by its very nature-- it can't not rhyme.

The patterning of this translation in Ribbit Rabbit appears below in a rough chromo-scope. 

Ribbit Rabbit and Moo Hoo serve not only as touchstones for a conversation on bineuralism, but they also provide a guiding grammar of social interaction for ASD children.  The former explores establishing and maintaining friendships, while the latter addresses how to develop new ones.  Of course, navigating the intricacies of social interaction bears relevance for all children and makes Ribbit Rabbit and Moo Hoo a pairing apropos for all kids who want to be "in the social know."

I've said a virtual mouthful about two books that are each only about 150 words in length, but it is my hope that bringing these insights to light will help extend the conversation on creating meaningful literature for autistic children.

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