Over the years we have had many heated debates in our house about counting…….Huh??? Exactly….. Let me explain. We’re not talking 1, 2, 3 here because that’s obvious and logical….no…..we’re talking about the terms few, some, not too many etc… These terms are abstract and when you live in a house full of autism these words are fraught with danger!!
The debate reared it’s ugly head again a couple of days ago when Nikita asked Osborn to get her a few chocolates. Bad move. He asked her what a ‘few’ was in her book. She’s as autistic as Osborn so the answer was never going to be straightforward. To cut a long story short we ended up debating just how many these various terms meant………exactly!
The argument raged on!!
Osborn is already happy that a couple is two, we agreed on that one years ago. A few still stumps him. Is it 3, 4, 5…..more??? We discussed this at great length trying to establish a definite quantity with me trying desperately to explain to Osborn that a few would be relative to the whole amount. If we were talking about a few biscuits out of a pack of ten then it would probably be 3, if we were talking about a few people in the UK that were over 6’6″ we would probably be referring to a several thousand. This raised the question of how many is several….I really should have known better!
Ultimately I felt that I should try to establish what Osborn’s idea of each term was and what came out was extremely interesting. We agreed a ‘couple’ was two, so far so good. He then mused that to him ‘a few’ was between 3-5 and 5-10 was ‘some’. OK……he then went on to say that 10-15 was probably ‘more'(?) and over 15 became ‘lots’.
This reminded me of a joke I heard years ago about how men count. If the man in your life is counting (and I have done a reasonable amount of research on this one!) he tends to look at a pile of something and when asked how many are there he is very likely to look at the pile and say “Well….there are 1, 2……errrrrr…..lots”. Men do seem to be incapable of counting above 2 in these situations and I have often heard them say “One, two….lots”.
Now, in fairness to Osborn, the inability to count does seem to be a bit of a gender thing…..sorry guys. I have tested this theory, ask a female to count a small pile and she will meticulously count and give you an accurate number. Ask the same question of a male of the species and the odds are that they will get to maybe as many as 4 and then lose patience and announce that there are ‘lots’ or if you’re lucky, offer a rough estimate of between 15-30 for example. Not very helpful if you actually do need to know the number of items available!
Non specific words that we all love to bandy around such as few, several etc…are all very well but are far too abstract for the autistic mind that works in definites and actualities. This is why they struggle with emotions so much, both explaining how they feel and understanding how other people are feeling. It is just that, a feeling, it doesn’t have a definitive explanation so it has no real form. It’s like describing the colour red to a person who has been blind from birth, you can’t.
My own children over the years have tried to describe their emotions and have come up with a myriad of ways of trying to verbalise how they’re feeling from ‘feeling fizzy’ (happiness) to feeling sick (anxious). If you can get your head round what they are trying to describe it does make life a whole lot easier!
I try so hard hot to use abstract words with my children but inevitably it does happen when I’m not concentrating. It always leads to some fascinating conversations especially with Osborn who is very pedantic in the way he needs to understand the minutia of absolutely everything. It is this attention to detail however that will allow him to become a great scientist one day so…………..KEEP IT UP OZZY!!