The Subtle Meanings of “No”

July 12, 2016

“Robert, do you want to go to the beach?”

“No, no, no, no no.”  Answers Robert between two bites of his cheese stuffed poblano pepper.

Years ago, such answer forced us to cancel the family trip to the beach.  Not anymore.  Now, Jan and I know that such  answer means, “I don’t want to go now, because I am eating.”  So, we have learned not to ask Robert if he would like to do something when he is busy doing something else. He might be putting away laundry or emptying dishwasher but as long as the job is not completed Robert will say, “No” to the most tempting alternative.

Of course, over the years, we have also learned to use a sentence of the form, ” After you finish…. we would….” Robert understands very well the concept of “after”.    He also grasps the meaning of “if” phrase as the condition of doing something. Still, the next step which would require using “after” in the question (Would you like to go to the beach AFTER you finish eating?” ) seems not reached yet.

“No, no, no” remains  Robert’s default answer to too many suggestions.  To escape such rejection I have learned to give Robert a choice.  Somehow, he feels obligated to demonstrate his preference even if both elements of the alternative don’t seem appealing.

It is much more difficult to understand the thinking process behind other “No”   answers and consequently it is much harder to decide how to deal with such rejections.  Not surprisingly, we, the parents, often encounter “no” when we try to widen Robert’s world and present him with new situations or new arrangements of old objects.  “Robert’s “No” can mean,  “We have never done that before.”  or “This is not how the world works”  or ” I would consider such change if I were not so scared” .

Using “No” as a way of assuring that the rigid limits of  Robert’s world are not punctured, is leading to the most severe dilemma.  Accepting “No” might lead to reinforcing the walls separating Robert from the freedom provided by wider perspectives on life, but rejecting it might lead to increased fear and distrust of others.

And of course, there  are many situations in which Robert says. “no” for very valid reasons. Because, however,  he doesn’t have  words to explain them, those reasons are not understood and too often the “No” is considered just another symptom of Robert’s condition – be it autism or OCD and not of his much more insightful view  of the circumstances.

 

 

 

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