Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Awareness of Colors Leads to a Conversation

Many children with autism seem stuck in their own world and don’t take much notice of their surroundings. It was like that with Kai for a long time. But lately, he seems to have a growing sense of awareness of the world around him, and is commenting on it more and more.

Kai has always had a fascination with colors. Not too long ago, he was obsessed with the 120 Crayola Crayon colors. This has now carried over into his observations.

When we are out driving, Kai constantly comments when he sees a car that has a bright or an unusual color.

“That car is lemon colored,” he will point out.

“There’s a kiwi Bug,” he will say as we pass a green VW Beetle.

I am using his newfound interest to interact with him more. I like to point out vehicles and ask Kai to describe the color.

“That’s mango, Dad,” he might say.

Sometimes we debate the colors.

“That truck is asparagus colored,” he would say. I’d respond, “I think it’s more like Pine Green.”

Parents of typical children may not understand the joy I get from discussing car colors with Kai. It is not just because it provides opportunities to make conversation with him about something other than Pokémon. It’s that having any conversation with him is a pleasure after thinking we may never have that opportunity when he was younger. Knowing that he is emerging out of the shell of his own world is a further bonus.

Yesterday, he noticed the color of something other than a car or truck.

We were sitting on our sofa in our basement. He was looking at me, then said, “Dad, you have some gray hair.”

He examined my head more closely.

“You have a lot of gray hair. Why do you have so much gray hair?”

I told him that I was not a young man and that people’s hair turns gray as they get older.

“You have some white hair.”

Oh, why couldn’t he have stuck to noticing colors on cars?

Then, he blurted out, “You have gray hair because I said I didn’t want to be your dad anymore.”

I don’t know where he got that idea from – it is possible that he heard my wife joking about how my hair turned gray after I married and became a dad.

I didn’t want him thinking he was causing me to age. So I told him again that everyone’s hair turns gray as they get older.

But then he started talking about how I had gotten angry when I was trying to help him with his Thinkwell math. I think he had connected that to my hair turning gray.

I told him that I should not have lost my temper. I apologized, and said I would try to be more patient when helping him.

We talked some more, with each of us acknowledging how we get angry sometimes, but how that doesn’t feel good. And how we will both try harder not to be like that.

From kiwi Bugs to gray hair to this. You never know what might come up when you listen to your child and try to engage with them.


  1. I love this post!! In Mexico we have a saying which translates into "giving someone green (gray) hair". When adults get exasperated with people (usually children) they'll say "you're going to make my hair go green!" (It doesn't translate well, sorry).

    I feel lucky to have read both these posts in a row. It's so sweet he was worried about giving you gray hair, and what a wonderful conversation to have about feelings. Talk about a great teaching moment!

    1. Thanks MM!

      I had never heard the Mexican version of giving someone green hair. That's cute!

      Yes, he was very sweet to think he might have been causing my hair to go gray. It is so interesting to find out what kids are thinking... I want to find more ways to get him to open up like that.

  2. Maybe he just picked up that saying he doesn't want you to be the dad anymore can cause you stress and hurt. :) What a sweet conversation. He is very sensitive and as he matures, will learn how to express frustration without saying hurtful things. I think your conversation was wonderful!

    1. Thanks, Betsy! Yes, when he isn't angry, he is quite a sensitive kid.

  3. What I think is great is his noticing his environment more...for whatever reason. That is the beginning of "Osmotic Learning". He is also becoming more expressive of his feelings too...by the way it sounds. He is maturing.

    1. Yes, it is really fantastic that he is noticing his environment more. He can learn so much just by observing and being in tune with his surroundings. And you're right, I think he is becoming more expressive of his feelings, which is a good thing.


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