Dog Dog Dog

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A note from my daughter:

As for most people with autism, school years can often be a difficult process and my youngest brother was no exception. He has always been intelligent and capable, but it takes a certain kind of environment for that to become visible. So recently, as he has become more comfortable with school, he has been feeling less stress in his life. Now his school problems are typical of a 15 year old boy; I really wish he would put more effort into his work. Effort aside, this lack of stress has allowed an entirely different side of him to come forward that I was not previously aware of. Although I knew he had a sense of humour underneath all of his quirkiness, being in a constant state of anxiety from school did not allow him to express it.

One of the most exciting ways in which he has learned to be funny is that he is able to catch his own autism-related oddities and make light of them in conversation. This is excellent on two levels. One he is catching his slightly abnormal behaviours, and is aware of them. But secondly, he is not ashamed of them; he is able to joke about them instead of being paralyzed with fear over being judged for them.

The thing that he is able to laugh at best that stands out for me is what we call “dog dog dog”. This simply when seeing a dog (usually one of our own – we have 3) he says “dog dog dog”. It’s not an overly awkward behaviour, and some people without autism surely do this too. But it is a funny thing that he is known for doing that would regularly occur when a dog would enter the room. As a family we used to poke a little bit of fun at him for this, because both our father and our father’s father do this same thing. And although the elder two generations of men do not have a diagnosis (but have also never been tested), it is often suggested that they may also find themselves on the spectrum. But I digress, what my brother has done to turn this teasing around is excellent! He has recently started catching himself in an “autism moment” or even other people in them and instead of just pointing it out, he will simply say “dog dog dog”. And either he, or the other person will know they’ve been caught having an awkward social interaction.

This is a way to both teases gently without hurting anyone, but also to reinforce appropriate social norms without having to go into a large discussion about it. It’s also an excellent reminder that even though he is the one with autism, he is not the only one who slips up in social interaction. It helps balance the playing field so that he is not always the one being called on his odd behaviours, because we all have them and it allows everybody to call each other on it in a fair and equal manner.

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